The Raven: anarchist quarterly

A selection of covers from the Raven journal

Partial online archive of The Raven, a quarterly anarchist review published by Freedom Press for 43 issues from 1987-2003.

Editors included Heiner Becker, Sylvie Edwards, Vernon Richards, Donald Rooum and Nicolas Walter.

Submitted by Steven. on January 14, 2013

Libcom note: some of the contents of this journal are of poor quality, and so we reproduce for reference only. However, there are some good articles which it published from time to time.

Published online with the kind permission of Freedom Press, from whom you can also purchase cheap hardcopies of The Raven, as well as many other far superior texts!

Libcom also hosts a gallery of Raven cover artwork here.

Missing: 35, 42.



11 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on January 14, 2013

Right, so I have set up this archive and I have a full set. I scanned 17 as somebody asked for it. If anyone would like any particular issues let me know and I will scan them ASAP. Otherwise I will do this on and off over the next few years…


8 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by bpeter_101 on September 5, 2015

Hello Steven,

Thanks very much for posting these copies of Raven Anarchist Quarterly. I am currently researching into the 'Spies for Peace', and there is a definitive article about the activities of the Spies for Peace in Raven Anarchist Quarterly Number 5. I once had a paper copy of the volume which I bought at the end of the 1980s, but unfortunately it has long since been lost.

I wonder whether you might be willing to scan and post volume number 5 in the Raven series, please (it has a light blue cover). The Spies for Peace were very influential in the anti-war / pacifist / libertarian movement at the time (early 1960s), so you would be doing a big service to radical historians.

Please don't hesitate to PM me for more info.

Thank you for your help and keep up the good work.

Best wishes,



8 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on September 5, 2015

Hey, no worries will do. Should be able to do it either at the end of this month or in early October if that's okay?

We have some other stuff on the Spies for Peace on libcom here: and here:


8 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by bpeter_101 on September 8, 2015

Thanks Steven - that's great, and very much appreciated. Will look forward to reading the article in due course. I'll read the links you've posted with great interest. The Spies for Peace story is really fascinating, and should be an inspiration to all.


8 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on September 8, 2015



8 years 9 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on October 29, 2015

Unfortunately I have now lost my full set of The Raven. It was sitting at my parents' house, but they threw it out! Sorry, I have scanned issue 1 which was the only one I had separately. I will have to try to get a set from Freedom directly to digitise the rest, unless anyone can donate some to us.


5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on August 14, 2018

lol, I had forgotten that there was a time when one of the world's biggest anarchist websites was called "spunk"


1 year 9 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on October 15, 2022

I've now scanned in the all the issues I was able to find for pence in London. They are mainly not that great but the early editions are worth a look and you're generally OK with pieces by Colin Ward. The historical stuff and reprints are good.

Overall there is a real problem with slightly academic middle aged white men wanging on self-indulgently about whatever the topic is. A couple of the articles by men writing about feminism are absolutely embarrassing. As are some of the pieces on class.

I didn't read The Raven much at the time and if the accounts of piles of unsold boxes of it at Freedom are true, I was far from unique in that. Black Flag, Subversion, Wildcat, Class War, Here & Now, Contraflow, Counter Information, etc all had more interesting things to say.

Nevertheless, there is value in having this archive available on Libcom, both to devalue the copies being sold for high prices on the second hand market, and as a warning to future generations, lol.


1 year 9 months ago

Submitted by Steven. on October 16, 2022

Great, thanks. The rumours about the great unsold pile at Freedom are very true. The old editor Toby ended up getting some of us to help him throw out dozens of boxes to pulp them. I disagreed with this, so tried for a while to sell full sets for a fiver, or give them away, but nobody wanted them. So eventually they got pulped. I kept a full set for myself to digitise later but somehow lost it after several house moves unfortunately.


1 year 9 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on October 16, 2022

Thanks Steven, kind of a waste all round really.

Does anyone know what the print run was?


1 year 9 months ago

Submitted by Steven. on October 16, 2022

I'm not completely sure, but vaguely rattling around inside my brain is the figure of 2000 per issue. But that seems way too high…


1 year 9 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on October 17, 2022

Wow, 2000 is certainly possible because it becomes super cheap to do a load more at a certain print run.

That is 86,000 individual copies of the total run though, which is mental.

Submitted by Steven. on October 17, 2022

Fozzie wrote: Wow, 2000 is certainly possible because it becomes super cheap to do a load more at a certain print run.

That is 86,000 individual copies of the total run though, which is mental.

hmmm maybe it was 500 per issue? Sorry, it's such a long time ago and I just picked up bits and pieces of info randomly. It's also possible that the Raven could have been printed for free by the printers as part of their arrangement with Freedom… But I was only aware of the arrangement to print Freedom. The production of the Raven was well before my time.


1 year 9 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on October 17, 2022

No worries Steven, just idle curiosity on my part. You’d imagine that the print run of later issues might have been drawn in a bit too, come to think of it.

Submitted by Steven. on October 17, 2022

Fozzie wrote: No worries Steven, just idle curiosity on my part. You’d imagine that the print run of later issues might have been drawn in a bit too, come to think of it.

that would make sense, however, I think the Raven was a big vanity project on behalf of the Freedom editors at the time, so I'm not really sure that rational choices like that figured into it that much…


1 year 8 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on November 14, 2022

So 35 and 42 are the only ones that can't be found online anywhere now.


1 year 8 months ago

Submitted by Steven. on November 14, 2022

wow that's amazing. I mean apart from the 200 MB PDFs, that's just unnecessary, especially for the Raven…

The Raven #01 1987

The Raven 1 cover
The Raven 1 cover

First issue of The Raven anarchist quarterly, with articles by Colin Ward, Vernon Richards and more.

Submitted by Steven. on October 29, 2015


  • Editorial
  • Notes on Freedom and the Freedom Press 1886-1986 - Heiner Becker
  • Anarchism and the informal economy - Colin Ward
  • Some notes on Malatesta and Bakunin - Vernon Richards
  • "Informing", communicating and organisation - Denis Pym
  • Latter day witches: anarchists in Australia - Bob James
  • Guy A Aldred (1886-1986) - Nicolas Walter
  • Review: Nancy McDonald, Homage to the Spanish Exiles - George Woodcock


raven-01.pdf (5.33 MB)


Notes on Freedom and the Freedom Press 1886-1986 - Heiner Becker

Percy Meachan in Freedom's machine room, 127 Ossulton Street (1927)
Percy Meachan in Freedom's machine room, 127 Ossulton Street (1927)

A detailed history of the early years of Britain's anarchist newspaper Freedom. Originally published in The Raven, 1987.

Submitted by Fozzie on November 20, 2021

Libcom note: The definitive history of Freedom Press so far is Rob Ray's A Beautiful Idea: The History of The Freedom Press Anarchists (Freedom 2018) which can be purchased here. A review of the book by Kate Sharpley Library is here. It is also worth noting that the author of the piece below claimed copyright on Rudolf Rocker’s texts later in life and took legal action against anarchists who published them. Details here.

”It is easy to forget how amazing Freedom's survival has been. Its whole history seems to have been one of staggering from one crisis to another; yet it has always arisen phoenix-like from the ashes while its contemporaries and rivals have gone the way of all flesh.”

Ken Weller, 1986

”Freedom was described as a philosophical, middle-class organ, not intelligible to the working classes, not up to date in late information and...less revolutionary than Comic Cuts...It was edited and managed by an inaccessible group of arrogant persons worse than the Pope and his seventy cardinals and written by fossilised old quilldrivers.”

John Quail, 1978 — quoting and obviously agreeing with a critic of 1897

”Nearly month by month the friendly co-operation of excellent comrades...produced for the reader a few moments of mental and sentimental life in the free Anarchist world of our hopes, an infinitely pleasant sensation which few other factors can produce. Freedom was always kind and gentle, faithful and hopeful, fair and reasoning, tasteful and well-proportioned. It excels by such qualities ever so many Anarchist periodicals and other publications which...possess other qualities, the personal note of interesting men, the elated feelings of stirring times, or they are the mouthpiece of vigorous organisations with all that is inseparable from organised life, predominating creeds, uncharitable criticisms of dissenters, and personal matters. All this may create a stronger impression for the moment, but it passes away...But to Freedom one turns back with pleasure...the basis of all was unswerving faith in freedom, fairness in reasoning, and gentleness in feeling.”

Max Nettlau, 1926

Freedom emerged from the British — or rather, London — socialist movement that had slowly but steadily taken shape since the late 1870s. In 1886, the year when Freedom was founded, and when a severe industrial crisis broke out which was to last some years, there were several socialist or 'social democratic' organisations with the express aim to organise the workers or, more basically, to prepare them for organisation (in that sense the Socialist League was to many of its militants more a kind of educational body: 'educate-agitate-organise' was the motto, and in exactly this sequence).

More than twenty years later Kropotkin was remembering it in Freedom (October 1907) as 'a most enthusiastic Socialist movement':

It was a Socialist — not a Social Democratic — movement, whose ideal was that of a society entirely reconstructed on the basis of a social revolution...A severe industrial crisis...contributed to render the movement still more acute...Contrary to what is currently said about the British workers, they received with eagerness, all over the country, the teachings of Socialism. Their only doubts were as to how to organise production when it would be wrested from the hands of the capitalists.

While there were numerous personal links to earlier movements such as the Chartists or the First International to provide some sense of tradition, the 'anarchist heritage' seems to have been completely forgotten at the time, or individuals who had already earlier regarded themselves as anarchists were isolated and even ostracised (like James Harragan, a Proudhonist since the early 1870s).

English anarchism, the English anarchist movement that slowly took shape then, rose essentially from three sources. The most obvious was the individualist Benjamin Tucker's Liberty, published in Boston from 1881 onwards, and from the beginning well distributed in Britain. In the first years of its publication Liberty was very much in sympathy with all sorts of revolutionary movements and exponents, such as the Russian revolutionists or John Most, though it soon seems to have created the impression with many English readers (such as William Morris) that only individualist anarchism was real anarchism.

Another impulse came from workers frequenting the International Club (originally in Rose Street) and its offspring such as the Homerton Social Democratic Club. There, and at the Social Revolutionary Congress of July 1881, they came in contact with French communards, German refugees like Most and Johann Neve, and with Italian socialists and anarchists like Malatesta. In this environment some English socialists became virtual anarchists, whether they used this word or not. These men,

”who knew also the American publications of the Tucker variety, familiar also with Robert Owen, the Owenites and other surviving old socialists, formed for themselves an anarcho-communism built on solidarity, that came very near to the ideas of Malatesta. Exuberance and formlessness had no attraction to them, nor Kropotkin's particular hypotheses either”

(Max Nettlau, La anarquia a traves de los tiempos, Barcelona 1935).

Joseph Lane, the author of An Anti-Statist Communist Manifesto of 1887 — 'the first English Anarchist pamphlet' according to Nettlau in Freedom (October 1926) — and Samuel Mainwaring are perhaps the most notable to represent this indigenous English anarchism that tried to combine a maximum of freedom with the greatest feeling of solidarity.

The third source was the French Jurassian anarchist communism, as developed by Kropotkin in the Revolte of Geneva, of which regular reports were published in George Standring's Republican from 1879 on, and which had a number of English readers especially after the Lyons trial of January 1883. The declaration of the anarchists on trial was published in London as a leaflet (reproduced in Freedom on 29 January 1983), and the general attention created by this trial led to many enquiries about anarchism and, eventually to expositions like “Anarchism by an Anarchist” by Elisee Reclus in the Contemporary Review of May 1884 or the articles by Charlotte Wilson in Justice (November 1884). Also in 1883, there had been an edition of Bakunin's God and the State which gave as place of publication Tunbridge Wells. The person responsible for this, who shortly afterwards was also publishing the first English anarchist paper, was Henry Seymour (1860-1938). Like many others, he came from the Freethought movement, and had been active as a freethought propagandist and director of 'The Science Library' in Tunbridge Wells for some time. Some fifty years later (in a letter of 18 March 1935 to Joseph Ishill) he recalled his development:

In 1881 I had been prosecuted for 'blasphemy' — the first case for 30 years — that is, in England, for actively engaging in Atheistic propaganda. I had just emerged from my teens. I was so disgracefully treated, as I then thought, in the trial of the case, that my perhaps rather proud spirit was in revolt and I soon became a fully-fledged Anarchist, seeing clearly through the humbug as well as the tyranny and hypocrisy of law in its actual administration...I chanced to get hold of Tucker's 'Liberty', and I obtained Proudhon's 'What is Property?', and to these, I must confess, I owe much of my later thought and action. Then I discovered a bookseller's 'remainder' of Edmund Burke's 'Vindication of Natural Society'...About the same time I met Dr. William Knowlton Dyer and Mrs. Sarah E. Holmes...on their return to the U.S., the Dr. (a personal friend also of Tucker's) arranged with Tucker that I should be an English agent of 'Liberty'. They also had a special reprint of Bakounine's 'God and the State' made for me to publish over here...Feeling that I had a mission to fulfill (vain conceit of youth), I made up my mind to abandon a very good business there (i.e. Tunbridge Wells) to seek my fortune in London, the centre, as I supposed, of revolutionary propagandist activity. I had decided to start an English 'Anarchist' and London seemed the only place, as there were groups there of all nationalities who would probably lend a hand to their English 'comrades'. I came to London in the early part of 1885...

The first issue of The Anarchist appeared in March 1885, individualist from the start, though open also to other anarchists. Seymour continued, describing 'The Genesis of Anarchism in England' in Free Vistas (vol. 2, 1937):

As one of the original members of the 'Fabian Society' before it adopted its policy of political opportunism, I was in friendly contact with many well-known figures in that party, amongst them...Edward Carpenter, Belfort Box, E.R. Pease, Walter Crane, Hubert Bland, E. Nesbit, Frank Podmore, Sidney Webb, Sydney Olivier...

Perhaps it was here that he met Charlotte Wilson, and also others who eventually, in May 1885 constituted 'a circle of English Anarchists'. Several of its members were in regular contact with Le Revolte, and Charlotte Wilson also with Kropotkin directly; and after Kropotkin had been released from Clairvaux prison and come to England (in March 1886), said Seymour (in his letter to Ishill):

He and other of his friends and myself met at the house of the famous Russian Stepniak, and I was induced to stifle myself and my individualist tendencies and be incorporated in a 'conjoint editorship' for future issues of the 'Anarchist' — there were to be four others, including Kropotkin, Dr. Merlino, Tchaykovsky, and Mrs. Wilson, all of whom were 'Anarchist-Communists'. I soon found that I had become the 'goat', having to do all the drudgery of production, supply most of the cost, while the others were content to write, excellently and otherwise. We had a 'tiff and parted...

The break was reported in Le Revolte, the paper Kropotkin referred to as 'my child', in its issue of 22-28 May 1886:

”We learn with regret that the attempt made by some friends in London to publish 'The Anarchist' under a new programme has been abandoned. We hope that a new anarchist journal will emerge.”

The first issue of this paper, named Freedom, finally appeared mid-September (though dated October) 1886. “It was started by C.M. Wilson and P. Kropotkin, the former acting as editor”, wrote Alfred Marsh in Freedom (December 1900) —reproducing most of an unpublished draft by Charlotte Wilson (in the Nettlau Collection, IISH, Amsterdam).

“Uphill work it was at the beginning. For over two years the paper was carried on nearly single-handed. How often we were discouraged”

, added an anonymous writer in Freedom (October 1890).

The 'guiding' ideas were Kropotkin's and his particular version of anarchist communism. The predominant view of the situation in Britain is best illustrated by the headings given to reports 'from England' in Le Revolte at that time: 'Riots', 'Insurrection', 'The People in Revolt'. And what Kropotkin intended to achieve with a paper like Freedom becomes clear in an article on the insurrections in Belgium, published in Le Revolte (5/11 February):

”It is certain that similar revolts will follow...If these are simple revolts out of despair, they will have the same negative result. But one must foresee them and act accordingly. One must say: 'It is certain that from now to the revolution there will be similar revolts revolts caused by hunger, by despair. If we don't prepare the ideas in advance, they will be limited to acts of despair...That is much. But it shouldn't be all. The revolt should spread an idea, present a principle that of expropriation... To get there, there should already be two or three men in the locality, respected for their honesty, their devotion, their revolutionary temperament. If the times are calm, they will be regarded as 'enrages'; but they will be those whom the people follow when the revolt rumbles...There must be local writings, local pamphlets that spread the same idea. One cannot make a paper in every little place; but one can spread the ideas...

For England, it seems, this also meant that Freedom was addressed first of all to socialists, who should be made to understand anarchism, and what had to be done in revolutionary situations. Consequently, Freedom was from the beginning — apart from being a medium for Kropotkin's ideas — also a platform for the discussion of socialist ideas in general.

Since virtually all articles were unsigned, it is difficult to attribute them to certain authors; but from a passage in Charlotte Wilson's draft history of the paper (omitted by Alfred Marsh in the article already quoted) it becomes clear that among the contributors in the first year were Edward Carpenter, Dr Burns-Gibson, George Bernard Shaw, Havelock Ellis, Sydney Olivier, Saverio Merlino, E. Prowse Reilly, Nannie F. Dryhurst, and Henry Glasse. The non-anarchist contributors were all members of or linked to the Fabian Society and were certainly asked by Charlotte Wilson to contribute, as were others later like Edith Nesbit, or Mrs Podmore who translated Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread. Less known, and of greater interest to us, are anarchists like N.F. Dryhurst and Henry Glasse. Mrs Dryhurst (1856-1930), born in Ireland as Nannie Florence Robinson, was closely linked to Freedom and a member of the Freedom Group from the beginning until 1906 (when, after a visit to Georgia and the suppression of the first Russian Revolution, she concentrated her energies on movements on behalf of self-determination of small nationalities as Secretary of the Subject Races Committee). For a short while in the beginning of the 1890s she replaced Charlotte Wilson as editor of the paper, and contributed articles regularly until about 1894.

Henry Glasse, details about whom are very difficult to find, is one of these rarely mentioned people who supported Freedom from the beginning until the First World War, both with literary and financial contributions (nearly every month he gave at least 10 shillings — quite a substantial sum at the time — and he supported other papers like Le Revolte as well). He had fought as a guerrillero in the Carlist War in Spain in 1872-1874; in 1878 he lived in Margate and submitted a manuscript on 'Caste, Capital and Social Democracy' to the International Labour Union for publication. In December of the same year, this was published by Bradlaugh's Freethought Publishing Company as a pamphlet, as well as another pamphlet of his with Thoughts on Religion and Society (both were later reprinted, if one may trust Frank Kitz's unreliable reminiscences, by the Rose Street Club). He became eventually a member of the English section of the Rose Street Club, and from May 1879 on he wrote regularly for George Standring's secularist paper The Republican — e.g. in March 1881 a sympathetic article on 'Anarchism'. Kropotkin translated another one on 'English Liberty' for Le Revolte (November 1880), and said in February 1881 in a letter to a friend in Belgium about Glasse: “I know only one man who seems to be disposed to become socialist and anarchist — that is the new collaborator of 'The Republican' whose article I've translated for 'Le Revolte;.” Glasse, however, soon left England (probably in February or early March 1881) to settle in South Africa as a farmer, but continued to support financially and with contributions all sorts of revolutionary and above all anarchist papers, starting with Le Revolte, The Commonweal, The Anarchist and Freedom, and often arousing discussion or contradiction by his views on the use of force:

“As long as our people simply attempt action in the towns, where troops can be massed, and artillery has the last word — so long, I contend and have long contended, they will be severely handicapped. Action in a suitable country, supported by the towns, would be invincible.”

(a letter to Keell in the Freedom Collection, IISH, Amsterdam).

In Spring 1901 he returned to England for a prolonged visit and addressed a number of well-attended meetings in London. At about this time, two of his contributions to Freedom were also published as Freedom Pamphlets: Socialism the Remedy in 1901, and The Superstition of Government (together with Kropotkin's Organised Vengeance called `Justice') in 1902 (in 1886 he had already translated Kropotkin's Expropriation and The Place of Anarchism in Socialistic Evolution for Henry Seymour's International Publishing Company). In January 1915 he sent for the last time (it seems) a contribution to the Freedom funds, telling Tom Keell at the same time that

”This is no time for propaganda here of any sort. In fact the censorship is very strict, and it may be well not to send me anything at present which might by any possibility be construed into opposition to the war against German Kaiserdom and Militarism. I suffered enough during the Boer War through a similar cause.”

Although Freedom succeeded in attracting quite a number of exceptional contributors and, on an intellectual level, from the beginning was an attractive paper (of the first issue 1,600 copies were sold in about three weeks, and the sales stabilised and rose even in the following months: quite unexpected at the time and especially at this time of the year, as there were few large outdoor meetings with possibilities to sell the paper), it seems to have remained strangely isolated during the first year of its existence. As Max Nettlau, a member of the Socialist League and close friend of some of the 'indigenous' English anarchists like Sam Mainwaring, later recalled in Die erste Bluetezeit der Anarchie (1981):

The Freedom Group whose paper was read with great interest, whose speakers like Kropotkin were greeted more enthusiastically than all the others at the great international meetings in 1887...otherwise kept itself so completely isolated that its members finally felt themselves that this wasn't the right way, and at the beginning of 1888 they came forward into the socialist milieu with a series of public lectures.”

These Freedom Discussion Meetings 'on Anarchist-Socialism', the first of which was held at the Hall of the Socialist League, 13 Farringdon Road, on 16 February 1888, were immediately very successful and drew a number of workers into the Freedom Group, especially from the Social Democratic Federation. Among those who in the next two years joined the Group were Alfred Marsh (from 1895 on the editor of Freedom), Tom Pearson, Walter Neilson, Charles Morton, W. Burrows, J.E. Barlas, C. Porter, and James Blackwell.

Another factor for the growing response to anarchism in general and Freedom in particular was the sympathy raised by the condemnation of the Chicago martyrs, and especially the visit of Lucy Parsons in October/November 1888. As Charlotte Wilson put it later (in another passage omitted from her draft history):

“She addressed numerous meetings, arousing much sympathy amongst the workers, both for the cause & for the Chicago men, but choking off various lukewarm or partial sympathisers with Anarchist theories by her 'wild west' talk about fighting.”

The influx of new members changed the style and contents of the paper somewhat, the most notable new feature being 'regular' reports and notices from the movement in London (from September 1889) and provincial groups (from April 1890). Members of the Freedom Group also initiated the formation of a number of local groups, and soon a number of provincial Freedom Groups sprang up, an example taken up nearly 25 years later by George Barrett and George Davison. The organisation of large public meetings in London and smaller local gatherings in a number of provincial places to commemorate the Paris Commune (around 18 March) and the legal murder of the Chicago anarchists (around 11 November) was another initiative started in 1890 and repeated successfully for several years. And in December 1889 the first Freedom Pamphlet appeared, Kropotkin's The Wage System.

Until December 1888 the paper as such had been produced single-handedly by Charlotte Wilson; in March 1889, the “editorial staff had been reinforced” and ”a committee of workmen formed to manage the publication and sale of the paper”. Actually, from March 1889 the paper was edited by James Blackwell, a compositor by profession. He seems to have become politically active in the Labour Emancipation League, the organisation founded by Joseph Lane and Tom S. Lemon after the closure of the Homerton Social Democratic Club. In October 1884 Blackwell, representing its Bethnal Green branch (with C.W. Mowbray), became its Secretary (with Joseph Lane as Treasurer) for two months, when he left for the SDF (to which the LEL by then was affiliated), and formed in December 1884 with Harry Quelch the Walworth branch of the SDF. The following February he was elected to the Executive Council, and he started writing occasionally for its paper, Justice. Thus he related his experience in 'A Fourpenny Dosshouse' (11 July 1885), or warned against 'The Emigration Fraud' (22 August) ”as one who has been to and returned from New York as a steerage passenger”. He also translated from the French Paul Lafargue's `Right to be Lazy' and immediately found himself engaged in a defence of this 'right'. From April till July 1886 he was again in the United States, sending 'American Notes' to Justice — from May onwards actually from Chicago at the time of the Haymarket crisis. Perhaps influenced by what he saw and heard there, he wrote after his return to London on 'The Futility of Manhood Suffrage' (31 July 1886), though still denying that “we should refrain altogether from parliamentary action”, as “the true Revolutionist adopts all available means to further his ends”. In August he suggested a method of propaganda which ”our religious friends are in the habit of employing...the house to house tract distribution and exchange” (28 August), following a defence of his Lafargue translation that ”to my thinking the Socialist is only half fledged who considers work a blessing and obstinence a virtue” (14 August). Still a Social Democrat (and manager of Justice), he was during 1888 an eager participant in the Freedom Discussion Meetings, but he soon declared himself an anarchist. Some time after his resignation from the Freedom editorship he left England again, living in 1897 in Paris.

* * *

Apart from the organisation of large public meetings, open-air public speaking was a major concern for members of the Freedom Group, as for every other left-wing group at least from the late 1870s onwards. The most successful place proved to be Regent's Park, where 'a regular peripatetic school of Anarchist philosophy was formed, the same audience assembling “week after week, summer after summer”, according to Marsh in Freedom (December 1900). This happened usually on Sundays, the speakers being mainly Frank Hyde, Walter Neilson, Charles Morton and Tom Pearson. The same people addressed on Wednesdays open-air meetings usually at the Prince of Wales Road, the formation of the St Pancras Communist-Anarchist Group being one result. All this work found a stimulus first and some sort of a break soon after a time that has been described as “an era of repression on the one hand and revolt on the other”, starting with the Walsall Police Plot from January 1892 onwards and then the prosecution of the Commonweal. Freedom's line at this time has been summarised characteristically drily and proudly (but quite correctly) by Charlotte Wilson in her history of the paper already quoted:

“During these troublous two years Freedom stood firmly on the side of the rebels and against the suppressors of rebellion in word and deed, even when the rebels used weapons which no humane person can approve in cold blood....On the other hand, Freedom did not either advocate or applaud outrage; its own policy advocated a continuous and energetic endeavour on the part of the workers, organised in Trade Unions, Co-operative Societies and other voluntary associations, to obtain by direct action, such as refusing to act as wage-slaves, the control of the means of production.

This may serve as a little hint where one has to look for the first references to and discussion of what later was called 'Syndicalism', a word first used in English — so far as I can tell — in October 1903, by Tarrida del Marmol in The General Strike. This was edited by Samuel Mainwaring and Tarrida del Marmol, in cooperation with the Freedom Group, modelled on Francisco Ferrer's La Huelga General. Three issues appeared between October and December 1903, and a new effort was made on 15 February 1904. The term Syndicalism didn't actually come into general use until 1907. The best short definition at the time I have found is in the introductory note to an article by Kropotkin on 'Anarchists and Trade Unions', translated from Les Temps Nouveaux and published in Freedom in June 1907:

“For the better comprehension of the following it may be noted that the French 'Syndicalism' differs from English 'Trade Unionism' in its revolutionary character. It considers the 'syndicate' as the arm for the Social Revolution and the cell of the future Communist society.”

Karl Walter found it still necessary, when reporting from the Amsterdam Congress in Freedom in October 1907, to explain “Syndicalism”:

“This expression is used throughout as being less cumbersome than 'Revolutionary Trade Unionism'.”

Among the new contributors in these years were William Wess, Errico Malatesta, Henry Nevinson, and W.C. Owen, J. Sketchley (the old Chartist), George Lawrence (the friend of Frank Kitz), Dr Fauset Macdonald, Louise Michel, Louise Bevington, Olive Rossetti, and Agnes Henry. Agnes Henry had run a Kindergarten in Trinidad in the 1880s. She then went for a while to Italy; her first contribution to Freedom on “How 'Risings' are promoted and suppressed by the Italian Government” was published in July 1891. She soon joined the Freedom Group and housed Freedom from February 1893 until early November 1894. In April 1893 she made (like other members of the group) one of numerous speaking tours, this time to Scotland. In January 1895 she left England for France, where she lived first in Paris and from June 1895 till March 1896 in Pont Aven (Finistere), trying to make a living by teaching and translating. She returned in April to England, settling for a year in Cromer, Norfolk, where she had found a reform school for the daughter of Antonio Agresti whom she adopted after Agresti married Olive Rossetti. In 1896 she became very much involved in the organisational efforts of the Associated Anarchists and slowly lost contact with Freedom and the Freedom Group. In April 1897 she wrote to the Labour Leader, the paper of the Independent Labour Party, that this paper “has almost persuaded me to become an”, and in July explained “why I am now anxious to join the I.L.P.”:

“In the first place, together with Krapotkine, Merlino, Hamon and many others, I hold that we Anarchist-Communists are primarily Socialists. Consequently my joining the I.L.P. makes no difference whatever as to my being a Socialist. It only indicates a modification in my views as to some of the methods by which the whole country — if not the whole world — may become Socialist. Already as an Anarchist-Communist, I consider that every step towards co-operative production and distribution for use, in place of the competitive and capitalistic system, is a step towards Socialism. Only I now am convinced that municipal collectivism is the first practicable step towards general co-operation, leading finally to organised Communism.”

”Again, as an Anarchist-Communist, I consider that the organisation of labour and of society generally for purposes of mutual advantage is absolutely necessary, both nationally and internationally, in every direction. And I recognise that the I.L.P. are the most effective and active organisers, both of labour and, through political action, of society generally....But, while one object of the I.L.P. is to form a Socialist party in Parliament, you yourself [i.e. the leader Keir Hardie] and several other members of the party have declared that the first chief thing is to convert the people to Socialism, which you can do largely by means of political action....It is therefore as an educative means that political agitation is mainly useful.”

That was exactly what critics (like Freedom) of the Associated Anarchists and similar organisational trends predicted and feared, and what George Robertson from Edinburgh said in a reply, making clear that “you can take part in no political contest without renouncing your claim to Anarchism”, for those “are coerced who don't agree to vote for either side and who have not joined the Constitution as it were”. Nevertheless, a number of anarchists went the same way as Agnes Henry, because of a similar reasoning as hers, or regarding the I.L.P. because of its then very open and unusually friendly attitude to anarchism as close to an 'anarchist party'; at about the same time Freedom also had to be defended against the plans of so-called “organisationists” (such as Dr Ladislaus Gumplowicz).


During the “era of repression” and the year or two following, a lot of the support and “converts” of the years 1887-1892 “dwindled away”, either dropping out completely, moving to other places and withdrawing into private life, or getting absorbed in trade union activities or the co-operative movement. All anarchist papers except Freedom ceased publication, some of the people who had taken part in these other publications eventually joining and reinforcing the Freedom Group (like in 1895 when Thomas Cantwell, John Turner, Joseph Pressburg, and Max Nettlau from the Commonweal joined Alfred Marsh). One of the reasons why Freedom survived all these crises and the others did not, in spite of the fact that other papers sometimes had more funds given to them, is the very unspectacular “accident” that in or around the active Freedom Group there was always one person who when it came to it was determined to carry on, combined with the fact that apart from one minor incident, the group was spared (or managed to keep out) members who eventually ran away with the (always meagre) cash-box. Trivialities of this sort are usually somewhat graciously passed over in silence. (For example, no one except Nettlau, in a book not published until 1981 — Die erste Bluetezeit der Anarchie —mentioned that Frank Kitz was expelled from the Socialist League in 1891 for the in theory somewhat unorthodox use he made of propaganda funds; and as Nettlau added sarcastically and sadly, it was “this kind of un-culture” that drove people like Morris, who mistook it as typical of anarchists, out of the Socialist League; and it was this, and the alleged involvement of some of the members of the League, in a milieu saturated with police spies, that kept Kropotkin (and the Freedom Group) away from the League.) This was the background, at least essentially, to the often lamented 'exclusivity' of the Freedom Group and to the habit of checking the 'credibility' of 'comrades' before accepting somebody to 'the inner circle', and not, as may easily be shown, a different view of anarchist tactics or strategy. And it goes almost without saying that this did not exclude the support (financial and otherwise) of the same comrades when they were in need (like e.g. James Harragan, David Nicoll, or Frank Kitz who incidentally is the only contributor to Freedom before 1927 who was paid for his contributions, i.e. his reminiscences in 1912).

And while these digressions may sound somewhat puritanical, they do at least answer most of the reproaches made against 'the Freedomites', and also help to understand the 'amazing survival' of Freedom where others failed. It may just be added further that the same can be said and shown internationally for all anarchist papers that lasted longer than a couple of years.


After Freedom had found in 1896 permanent lodgings, a commercial or semi-commercial printing business was set up, called until 1902 the Cosmopolitan Printery, and run mainly by Tom Cantwell and for some time a Belgian anarchist, F. Henneghien. The issue for July 1898 then published for the first time an “appeal to all friends and sympathisers in the international Anarchist movement” to establish The 'Freedom' Press, “that we are all assured will have the deepest and most far-reaching, effect on the Anarchist propaganda in England”. The object was ”to place the publication of Anarchist literature in England on a business basis”. For,

“if £30 can be raised (and surely it can be), we shall be enabled to issue many new works of great interest and importance, besides issuing reprints of others which are badly needed. It would also aid us greatly in reducing the expense of the publication of 'Freedom', and so avoid the constant and heavy strain that publishing at a loss necessarily entails on a few comrades who are only wage-slaves themselves.”

This was carried for a few months, but brought no more than about £15, of which £10 came from 'Glasgow comrades' right at the beginning. In the end, nothing came of it, and as before the funds for the printing or reprinting of pamphlets had to be raised, sometimes with great difficulty, for each individual venture. The Freedom Press as a firm seems to have come into existence only with the issue for July 1916, after the trial of T.H. Keell and Lilian Woolf (Wolfe). In the years 1898-1902, the Freedom Group complemented their other publishing activities (the paper and the Freedom Pamphlets, of which by the late 1890s some 80,000 copies had been sold) with the mass-production and distribution of single leaflets, a practice adopted, apart from very special occasions, first for a short time between 1892 and 1894, and then again later around 1909/1910.

In September 1898, as a kind of offspring of the Freedom Group, the Libertarian Lecture Society was formed on the initiative of Miss A.A. Davies, who had made contact with the group some eighteen months earlier. It was established 'for the purpose of disseminating more light on the advanced thought, literature and movements of the day'. It complemented the Freedom Discussion Group, revived early in 1898 and named after similar initiatives in 1888 and 1890, and the two continued for four years, organising weekly (later fortnightly) lectures which were held at the beginning in Athenaeum Hall, at 73 Tottenham Court Road, then at Tom Mann's pub The Enterprise, 96 Long Acre. Heading the programme were Goethe's last words 'Light! More Light!' (which a few years later also provided the Austrian anarchist Rudolf Grossmann with his pseudonym in England: Kl. Morleit, before he `adopted' the name of a helpless French humanist of the sixteenth century, Pierre Ramus), and the lectures started on 16 October 1898 with Louise Michel on 'The Situation in France'.

Very little is known about Miss A.A. Davies, not even her first names. Her father was Welsh, her mother Irish; she came to anarchism when living in New York in the early 1890s. She was attracted to the Socialist League that W.C. Owen and John Edelman had founded there, and then was active in the group that published Solidarity (Saverio Merlino, John Edelman and the Krimont sisters). Involved in Irish 'affairs', she came to London early in 1897 and was for some time closely observed by the police, in the aftermath of the so-called Jubilee Plot (several Irish people coming from the United States were arrested for allegedly planning to assassinate Queen Victoria at the time of the Diamond Jubilee). She joined the Freedom Group in 1898 (which then for a while felt unusually conspiratorial, being particularly suspicious with a notorious Irishwoman in their midst). From Autumn 1898 she wrote alternately with Nettlau the International Notes, and in 1905 under the pen-name libertas' she wrote the little tale 'The King and the Anarchist' (published from February until April and then as a Freedom Pamphlet). Harry Kelly has left picturesque descriptions of “the mysterious Miss A.A. Davies” and her participation in the printing of the paper:

“A.D. did the taking off and I did the feeding... [she] always wore a black hat with a black veil, and black gloves while working; with her face with its fresh color and her gray hair she looked the picture of an old master.” (Mother Earth, May 1913, Freedom, September 1921 and November/December 1926).

And Mairin Mitchell remembered later the:

”Irish member of the Freedom Group who had some attics off the Euston Road. She used to ask me there, and in summer three or four of us would climb up some shaky steps, wriggle through her skylight and sit on the roof, with a glorious view of London's blackest chimneys and the L.M.S. goods yards. And there we would stay, making tea on a spirit stove, generally Russian tea, to please Temoochin, a Tartar sailor” (Storm over Spain, 1937, which includes several references to the Irish links with the British anarchist movement — and in the index one may discover that 'The Irish Rebel' who wrote in Freedom and The Voice of Labour before the First World War was William J. Orr).

In about 1910 Miss Davies joined the suffragettes and left the Freedom Group, though remaining in contact with some of her old anarchist friends until the early 1920s.


From 1900 until 1906, Freedom had to endure the most difficult years of its existence so far. During the period of the Boer War, meetings —and especially open-air meetings on which the paper depended for the street-selling — became at times virtually impossible. The group, however, managed to produce all the time a reduced paper, and especially after 1903 the pamphlets were again very much in demand, some of the titles being constantly reprinted (the best-sellers were Kropotkin's Anarchist Communism and The State: Its Historic Role, and Malatesta's Talk about Anarchist Communism between Two Workers and his Anarchy). The Freedom Group remained virtually unchanged after 1896, the most active members being Alfred Marsh, Max Nettlau, Tom Cantwell, Harry Kelly and his wife Mary Krimont, Miss Davies, Varlaam Cherkezov and his wife Frieda, John Turner with longer and longer intervals, and to a lesser degree Frank and Lena Hyde. Kropotkin did not take part in the actual production, but confined himself to writing articles, usually not taking part in the group meetings at this time. The sole editor during all these years was Alfred Marsh, who also did virtually all the correspondence until 1904, when Tom Keell, who had been employed as compositor since 1902, after due probation was admitted to the group and also became Manager.

During 1906 the success of syndicalism in France had its effect in London; after earlier abortive attempts following a visit by French syndicalists in London in June 1901, such as The General Strike that had been produced in 1903 and 1904 by Samuel Mainwaring and Fernando Tarrida del Marmol in cooperation with the Freedom Group, and a single issue of a Voice of Labour, printed for comrades in Glasgow at the Freedom Office in 1904, Marsh, Keell, Turner and Kropotkin planned a syndicalist paper named The Voice of Labour. A dummy issue was printed in November 1906 and distributed in a few dozen copies, and the first proper number then appeared on 18 January 1907. The paper was to last for 36 issues, until September of the same year, the first eight issues edited by Marsh, the rest by Keel. The principal contributors were John Turner, Gerald Christian (who wrote under the pseudonym 'Scorpion'), Guy A. Aldred, Karl Walter, Harry Kelly, Sidney Carlyle Potter, and James Dick. The keynote of the paper was the futility of parliamentary action and the importance of industrial action.

Karl Walter (1880-1965) became involved with the Freedom Group in 1904 and wrote regularly for Freedom until 1908, when he left for the United States (where he worked as a journalist and contributed to Mother Earth). He was, with Keell, an English delegate at the International Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam in August 1907, and he wrote the report published in Freedom and reprinted as a Freedom Pamphlet. He returned to England in 1916 and in the 1920s helped Freedom with occasional translations; he later became yet again an occasional contributor to Freedom (and other anarchist papers) after 1958. (His grandson, Nicolas Walter, became active at about that time.)

For the next decade S. Carlyle Potter also wrote regularly for Freedom (and then very occasionally until the paper stopped), later becoming a Tolstoyan anarchist and living as a bookseller in Southampton.

Henry May ('Harry') Kelly (1871-1953) was a member of the Freedom Group from his (second) arrival in England in January 1898 until his return to the United States in August 1904; before and after he wrote regular American Notes for Freedom. He was, as Nettlau related on numerous occasions, the man in the Freedom Group with practical advice in every situation and a practical solution to all problems. Two American namesakes of Freedom were initiated by him (in 1919 and 1933-34), and he remained a loyal friend and supporter of Freedom until 1927.

Like Harry Kelly later active in the American Modern School Movement, was James Hugh ('Jimmy') Dick (1882-1965), a Liverpudlian who started with Lorenzo Portet a Modern School in Liverpool in 1908. From then on he also contributed frequently to Freedom (as Jey H. Dee, as Dick James or Jimmy Dick), usually apart from reports on the school instructive articles 'For the Young Folk'. In 1912 he started with Naomi ('Nellie') Ploschansky (born in Kiev in 1893 and still going strong in the United States, as listeners to the BBC World Service may have heard last year) an International Modern School in Whitechapel which lasted until shortly before they left for the United States in January 1917.


1909 saw a big boost in the publication activities of the Freedom Group, following the death of Marsh's father. He was left in charge of the family's brush factory, and for the first time in more than twenty years he had not to worry about his and his family's living (after marrying a factory girl, he had been thrown out by his father and had made a very meagre living as a violinist). Freedom profited considerably from the change in its editor's living, and saw the reprint of virtually all pamphlets still of current value in 1909, the production of a whole series of leaflets, and a number of newly produced pamphlets, including the publication of the first two longer booklets — Bakunin's God and the State in a revised and expanded translation by Nettlau (in 1910) and Kropotkin's Modern Science and Anarchism in 1912 for Kropotkin's seventieth birthday (in editions of 5,000 and 3,000 copies respectively).

In 1910 Freedom won with George Ballard ('Barrett') a contributor whom Keell later called ”the best speaker & writer the English movement ever had in my time. Clear, logical & concise”. He was born in Ledbury (Herefordshire) in 1883; in February 1908 he was mentioned for the first time in Freedom, when in a report on “Anarchism in Bristol” it was said of him that he ”bears the heavy responsibility of having disturbed the otherwise peaceful routine of that highly successful political organisation”, the Bristol Socialist Society, by giving a lecture on 'Anarchy and Socialism'. With him, anarchism spread in Bristol in the next few years. He came to London and became active in the Walthamstow Anarchist Group; getting a job in Glasgow in 1911, he went there, but came nevertheless regularly to London and was asked in the same year, and agreed, to become editor of a weekly Freedom. But, according to Keell (in a letter to Nettlau, 27 February 1935): ”On his way home to Scotland he thought it over & then wrote & declined, saying the 'tradition' of F. was too strong. He wanted a paper entirely different.” He continued to write for Freedom also when and after he had 'his own' paper in Glasgow, The Anarchist (1912-1913), which he was able to publish thanks to the financial support of George Davison (1856-1930), previously the European director of Kodak, a close friend of Ballard and supporter also of Freedom (and other groups and papers, including Aldred's Herald of Revolt and The Spur). Shortly before the First World War they founded a number of 'Workers' Freedom Groups'; Ballard drafted a statement of objects and took care of regular lectures, while George Davison, who then travelled mostly with Barrett, would not speak but helped to sell literature. He bought houses at Stockport, Ammanford (South Wales), and Chopwell (Co Durham), furnished them, equipped them with small libraries and paid most of the running expenses. It was on his property 'Wernfawe' at Harlech (North Wales) that the Freedom Group held a number of times around 1914 an anarchist summer holiday camp, as did later, between 1919 and 1921, the colonists of Whiteway. The Freedom Press published Barrett's pamphlets The Anarchist Revolution (1915, reprinted 1920), and Objections to Anarchism (1921) — and later a small collection of his writings edited by S.E. Parker under the title The First Person (1963). He died in 1917 from tuberculosis which he had contracted in 1913 during an agitation tour.

In 1911 also George Cores (1867-1949) returned to London which he had left twenty years earlier. He started to contribute for a while regularly to Freedom (usually signing `G.'), and was in 1912 proposed as co-editor, with Keell — but Keell refused absolutely, thereby drawing upon himself the lifelong hatred of Cores. Cores then ceased collaboration with Freedom.

Another contributor from 1912 on was Mabel Besant Hope (born at East Plumstead, Kent, in 1880), who had been a socialist since 1897. She worked in the Telegraph Department of the Civil Service from 1898 and was, apart from being on the local Executive of the Telegraph Clerks' Association, in 1906 secretary of the Joint Council of London Women Civil Servants. In 1913 she was one of those, with Fred W. Dunn, Lilian Woolf, Tom Sweetlove, Elisabeth Archer and W. Fanner, who formed the Anarchist Education League. They published in connection with Freedom five issues of a little 4-page sheet The Torch, which from 1 May 1914 became a weekly under the old title The Voice of Labour. The editor was first nominally George Barrett, but soon actually Fred W. Dunn (1884-1925), the son of Edwin Dunn of Rose Street Club fame and the London Congress of 1881. He wrote the article 'Defying the Act' which then led to the prosecution of Tom Keen and Lilian Woolf, and shortly afterwards left for the United States to escape conscription, where he worked for some time as teacher at the Ferrer School at Stelton, NJ, and then as organiser for the Consumers' Co-operative Housing Association. The Voice of Labour, weekly for its first 18 issues until 27 August 1914, and then monthly lasted until 15 August 1916 with altogether 42 issues.

The group around The Torch and The Voice of Labour had since 1912 become the most active support of Freedom in London, especially in regard to distribution. They were staunch supporters of Keell after his split with the pro-War members of the Freedom Group in 1914. The active and actual members at that time were, besides Keell and Marsh, Nettlau, Kropotkin — though he rarely attended meetings — and Frieda and Varlaam Cherkezov; definitely not Cores, as was claimed later; and Turner had not taken part in any meetings of the group, not to speak of working for the paper, for more than five years. What happened after the outbreak of the War in August 1914, has been told several times and need not be repeated here. How the functioning of the group and its relationship with the editor were understood at least since the 1890s, was most concisely said by Nettlau in a letter to Keell (13 May 1930):

“...thus you were editor in 1912, but not a supreme editor, as Freedom never had one: the point always was that the editor had to be in full sympathy with the wishes of the group — and the group discussed and had the sincere wish that all should voluntarily agree and be in harmony.
This means that no one had a supreme voice as the editor, but the editor as a comrade was expected to be in harmony with the group and vice versa — and it was tried to give satisfaction to all....
I say all this, because I think you cannot take your stand upon editorial rights. It was known to all that the editor had no rights and so by the death of A.M. nothing could be altered: if there was disagreement, there never was coercion, there was secession — as I wanted to go in November 1912 and as they all went in the autumn of 1914 or as you would have had to go, if they had chosen to stay...”

Fred Dunn summarised the view of the overwhelming majority of the British anarchists, as represented for example at the annual national conference held at Hazel Grove, Stockport, on 4 and 5 April 1915 (writing as 'Fred Watson' on 'The Movement in Great Britain' in Mother Earth, February 1917):

“From the beginning the Anarchist press, without exception, took up a strongly anti-militarist attitude, despite the fact that in the case of Freedom and the Voice of Labour, some few of their oldest comrades sided with the government. But the movement as a whole stood firm, and at the Congress held in April, 1915, only two voices were raised to support those who favored war.”

The group set up Marsh House at 1 Mecklenburgh Street, most members living there as a commune, and the place served also as a meeting place for the London movement during its existence between March 1915 and September 1916. Keell edited Freedom, while Dunn edited the Voice until March 1916, when he became liable for military service. He was arrested and put into a military prison, and in due course officially 'posted to his regiment'. But he managed to escape and hid 'somewhere on the Scottish hills', from where he sent the notorious article 'Defying the Act', which, reprinted as a leaflet, led to the first police raid on Freedom Office on 5 May 1916 and the subsequent prosecution and condemnation of Keell and Lillian Woolf (it was reproduced in the Centenary issue of Freedom, October 1986). From April 1916 Mabel B. Hope became editor until, after the second raid on the office on 29 July 1916, it was decided in August “to suspend publication of the Voice of Labour for a short period”. As Dunn formulated it in the article already quoted:

“All honest people are in, or have been to prison, but the work of opposing the State and the war still goes on. The censor has forbidden 'Freedom' to be sent out of the country, and the 'Voice of Labour' has been suppressed altogether, but it has not died: a metamorphosis has taken place and a bright little paper has made its appearance with the self-explanatory title, 'Satire'.”

Satire was published from December 1916 by the Freedom Press and edited by Leonard Augustine Motler, a deaf-mute who had written for Freedom for quite a few years before the War (we hope to carry a more detailed account of him before long). It was the reason for two further police raids on the Freedom Office, on 20 November 1917 and 14 February 1918 (at the same time raids took place at the house of the editor), and after a raid on the printers on 26 April 1918 it ceased publication with the issue for April 1918. Dunn having left for the United States, soon followed by Mabel Hope and Elisabeth Archer, Tom Sweetlove having dropped out 'in a fit of depression', and Moiler by the time of the end of the war involved in other and local activities, it was left to Keell and Lilian Woolf to keep the paper going (Percy Meachem, later one of the bitterest opponents of Keell, had helped with the printing of Freedom during Keell's prison term in 1916 and was employed only from the early 1920s as a kind of handyman in the office).

The Russian Revolution brought a number of new contributors, both for and against the Bolsheviks. One was Fred Charles, now a strong supporter of the Bolsheviks and absolutely enthused by the Revolution (an account of him will be published soon). Another one was 'John Wakeman' (behind which name hid a professional Yorkshire journalist named Richard Hawkin). Both contributed regularly for a number of years, and Freedom Press also published a pamphlet by 'John Wakeman' in January 1920, entitled Anarchism and Democracy. And then W.C. Owen joined forces with Freedom, and became, with Nettlau, the most prolific contributor to Freedom in the 1920s (though he never was editor, as Emma Goldman claimed in her memoirs). He was also the mainstay of the meetings of the Anarchist Discussion Circle, organised with great success and taking up an old tradition in the winters of 1922-23 and 1923-24 at the Minerva Cafe, 144 High Holborn.

Freedom Press published between 1920 and the suspension of Freedom in December 1927, five more pamphlets (two by Owen, one each by George Barrett and Emma Goldman, and Kropotkin's Revolutionary Government), and its first book, Proudhon's General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century in a translation by John Beverly Robinson (who also paid most of the costs). The last two were produced for Freedom Press in Berlin by the German anarcho-syndicalists. In addition, a number of pamphlets and Kropotkin's Modern Science and Anarchism were reprinted. The title Abolition: A quadruple composition etc., listed in Carl Slienger's Checklist of Freedom Press Publications, was actually not published by Freedom Press, but only composed and the printing arranged for the author, R. Van.

Throughout the 1920s, Freedom carried more and more desperate appeals for financial (and other) help. All contributions came from a very small circle most of whom even didn't live in Britain any more. When the local council gave notice that the building was to be pulled down and that Freedom therefore had to quit, Keell decided (after consulting Owen and Nettlau as well as Lilian Woolf) to suspend publication. Freedom ended with the issue for November-December 1927, numbered 446 (but actually being 448, as in 1905 there were three issues numbered 197 but none numbered 198, and in 1920 there were two issues numbered 372; earlier mis-numberings had been silently corrected in subsequent years).

At a meeting held in London in February 1928, to consider the possibility of restarting Freedom, a new and wider group was formed (including Keell). The only one who actually did something was Keell himself, who published a Freedom Bulletin from April 1928 on, the first with a big headline — “A Call to Arms! Freedom must go on. Help to create an Anarchist Movement” — saying among other things:

”Comrades throughout the country and comrades abroad have been very deeply stirred by the suspension of the only Anarchist journal in this country. New comrades have come forward determined to help restart the paper....But this interest and not enough. Enthusiasm is an essential factor to success, but it will not pay the printer's bill.”

Further meetings were held and spent with a lot of talking, the only other thing that happened was the publication of two more issues of the Bulletin with further appeals. Keell waited until 29 September 1928, when the final notice to quit expired, but no solution had been found to the problems of where to house the stock of literature permanently and how to pay the outstanding printer's bills for this literature. So Keell decided to move everything to Whiteway Colony, where Lilian Woolf had offered free accommodation for the Freedom Press, and from October 1928 on the Freedom Press was lodged there, and twelve more issues of the Freedom Bulletin were published (as well as a couple of reprints). Usually 1,100 copies were printed of each issue of which about 800 were sent out regularly (included 100 exchanges). While a number of orders came in, only a few people occasionally paid for their papers. When the principal financial supporter (Elisabeth Archer in California) was beginning to suffer from the Depression there, Keell decided to stop after Number 15 for December 1932 (a special issue to commemorate Malatesta). “The Bulletin has just faded out of existence...I feel the loss of a link with old comrades, but without money it had to be broken.”


The Raven #02 1987

Issue 2 of The Raven journal from August 1987 with articles from Colin Ward on self-help in urban renewal, Geoffrey Ostergaard on Indian anarchism and Vinoba Bhave and more.


  • Editorial
  • Johann Neve (1844-1896) - Heiner Becker
  • Self-Help in Urban Renewal - Colin Ward
  • Walden Center and School - David Koven
  • Surrealism in England; Heads or Tails? - Franklin Rosemont
  • Surrealism in England: What about Jesus? - Arthur Moyse
  • Indian Anarchism: The Case of Vinoba Bhave - Geoffrey Ostergaard
  • Woodcock Reconsidered - Nicolas Walter
  • Review: Denis Pym on Lewis Mumford, The Future of Technics and Civilization
  • Review: George Woodcock on Benjamin Tucker and the Champions of ‘Liberty’

Illustrations between pages 129 and 136 and pages 153 and 160


Raven-02.pdf (4.6 MB)


Self-help in urban renewal - Colin Ward

Colin Ward on urban renewal and gentrification.

Submitted by Alex76 on June 30, 2013

In his introductory essay to the modern editions of Ebenezer Howard's book Garden Cities of Tomorrow - the book and the author responsible for the founding of the Town and Country Planning Association at the end of the last century - Lewis Mumford remarks that 'with his gift for sweet reasonableness Howard hoped to win Tory and Anarchist, single-taxer and socialist, individualist and collectivist, over to his experiment. And his hopes were not altogether discomfited; for in appealing to the English instinct for finding common ground he was utilising a solid political tradition.'

The Association itself, operating in a political world, has always had to win support from that small number of politicians in any party who are actually interested in planning issues, or to educate those who actually hold office, nationally and locally. This is a task which of course becomes more and more difficult with the apparent polarisation of politics and political attitudes.

I am notoriously a non-political person. I always aspire to attain Ebenezer Howard's gift of sweet reasonableness, and to win over people from both right and left. But, alas, I seem to have a knack of antagonising both sides. I don't do it to annoy because I know it teases, I am simply obliged to do it because I have a different view of the world. And if my subject is 'self-help in urban renewal’, I have to begin by antagonising everyone.

Let me begin by antagonising the left, by saying that a major example of self-help in urban renewal has been the process stigmatised as 'gentrification'. We have a stereotype of young, pushing, upwardly mobile, middle-class trendies (or whatever adjective suits you best) driving old and poor working-class tenants out of their traditional habitat. We all used to have our horror-stories about Rachmanism, and we all had our ready-made sneers about the in-comers. What we mostly remained silent about was that the particular middle-class trendies driving out the traditional inhabitants were in fact the officers of the
local authorities pursuing the then fashionable trends in urban renewal.

This is why Wilfred Burns, Newcastle's planning officer and subsequently the Government's chief planner, was able to say that 'when we are dealing with people who have no initiative or civic pride, the task, surely, is to break up such groupings even though the people seem to be satisfied with their miserable environment and seem to enjoy an extravert social life in their own locality' (New Towns for Old: The Techniques of Urban Renewal, 1963); and it explains why another Newcastle architect, Bruce Allsop, felt obliged to remark that 'it is astonishing with what savagery planners and architects are trying to obliterate working-class cultural and social patterns. Is it because many of them are first-generation middle-class techno-snobs?' (Towards a Humane Architecture, 1974). Nobody cared to listen in the 1950sand 1960s, and even in the 1970s, when the cash was still swilling about in the urban renewal bran-tub, to those who pointed to the grotesque paradox that a line drawn on a map in town halls and county hall selected one side of whole streets for demolition and redevelopment as unfit for human habitation, while on the other side of that line absolutely identical houses, blighted by the redevelopment process, were beginning their upward progress, aided by the merry whirr of Black and Decker, into the desirable residence end of the market. A comparison of the bizarre prices that the rescued houses fetch today with the sorry state of the estate opposite is interesting in pondering the conclusion reached a decade ago by Dr Graham Lomas (formerly deputy strategic planner for the Greater London Council) that in London more fit houses had been destroyed by public authorities than had been built since the war (The Inner City,1975).

The orgy of publicly financed destruction and of slapping compulsory purchase orders on everything in sight (which eventually reached the pitch that really progressive authorities like the GLC were actually setting in motion the procedure of compulsory purchase on properties they already owned) was followed by what should have been the gentler, more creative climate of General Improvement Areas and Housing Action Areas. Once again the official gentrifiers from the town hall took command, and urban renewal took the form of cobbles and bollards, and planting in the street. Several people here must remember Susan Howard's tragi-comic account, at the TCPA's 1974 conference on Housing Action: the Opportunities and the Dangers, of the experience of the first General Improvement Area in Leicester. At that conference Jim Grove underlined the principle that 'sovereignty over decisions must lie with the inhabitants' and Lawrence Hansen of Waltham Forest made the very significant remark that 'house improvements have value only as perceived by the occupants'.

We were now in the era of Public Participation. All of us here must have had the experience of attending those meetings of citizens held in the name of participation to discover what residents actually wanted, where invariably residents wanted things that the special central government cash could not provide: an improvement of ordinary municipal services, the kind of things that councils actually existed to provide - things like street-paving, street-lighting, street-cleaning and refuse-collection. They were revealing an unmentionable fact: that there has always been a hierarchy of excellence in these services, based on who complains most. The presence of complaining gentrifiers in fact pushed up standards for everyone.

There was one General Improvement Area in the country which was proposed, implemented and subsequently managed by the residents themselves. It was also an example of the ironical crudity of official designations of places, for it moved in a few years from being a Clearance Area not worth saving to being a Conservation Area where every brick became part of our Priceless Architectural Heritage. That street was of course Black Road, Macclesfield, and it owed its transformation to the fact that in 1971 a young gentrifying architect moved in because it was cheap and had his application for an improvement grant turned down because his slum cottage was 'structurally unsound'. He, of course, spiralled up to becoming the next president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and must often reflect on the truth of the remark of Samuel Smiles in his celebrated book Self-Help where the author remarks that 'the duty of helping one's self in the highest sense involves helping one's neighbours'.

Now what have these gentrifiers got, apart from an expanding asset in a milieu of dwindling assets? They have dweller control, which people like me always insist is the first principle of housing, more important than housing standards assessed from outside. And the other thing they have is know-how: that is, they know how to work the system. The whole thrust of the TCPA's innovations in the 1970s, with their planning aid service and their environmental education service, was towards expanding this kind of knowledge into something available for everyone.

I now have to antagonise the right by asserting that a further major example of self-help in urban renewal is the process stigmatised as squatting. We have a stereotype of vandals, junkies and dole scroungers jumping the housing queue, and we have all heard squatter horror-stories and have done for years. They are as untypical as the tales about the gentrifiers. We all know the reasons for the growth of organised squatting since the late 1960s. In the crude duopoly that emerged in postwar British housing in the period between owner-occupation and council tenancy, whole categories of people notably the young, single and childless - were left out of account altogether, for housing policy was based upon the standard family of two parents and two-and-a-half children, even though by now this unit has been overtaken by demographic facts and is a tiny statistical minority of households. Sub-letting and taking in lodgers – the traditional way of getting a room for the mobile young - was usually specifically forbidden by mortgage agreements in one category and by tenancy agreements in the other. At the self-same time, policies of accumulating huge sites for eventual comprehensive redevelopment left a vast number of houses either slowly rotting awaiting demolition, or similarly rotting awaiting eventual renovation. Policy itself, as Graham Lomas stressed, 'left great areas unoccupied and ripe targets for vandalism and squatting' (The Inner City)
Fortunately the squatters sometimes got there before the unofficial vandals. The response of the authorities was interesting. Central government changed the law on squatting for the first time since the
Fourteenth century - although squatting is neither criminal nor illegal, it is simply unlawful (see the Squatters' Handbook). Local government in many places distinguished itself by destroying its own property to keep squatters out - ripping out services, smashing sanitary fittings, and pouring wet concrete down drains. In others it employed so-called 'private investigators' as agents of the council to terrorise and intimidate squatting families (see Nick Wates and Christian Wolmar, Squatting: The Real Story, 1980). On several occasions councils actually blamed the squatters for damage to property done on their instructions by their own employees.

Just in case you, either in the past or today (when there are 50,000 squatters in London), believed the stories told about squatters, surveys showed that in Haringey 51 per cent were actually people with children, in Lambeth over 60 per cent, and in Cardiff 77 per cent. And what property did they squat? 'The Haringey survey found that of 122 squats, only three were required by the Council as part of its permanent housing stock (i.e. ready to let). Over half were privately owned and those owned by the council were either awaiting renovation or demolition. The squats had been empty, on average, for over six months. And a survey on squatters in council property commissioned by the Department of the Environment found that only one-sixth of the sample was in permanent stock, and that even much of this was regarded as "difficult to let". The reality is not that squatters jump the housing waiting list or deprive others of a home but rather that they opt out of the queue altogether and make use of houses that would otherwise be empty.' (Squatting: The Real Story)

The squatters' movement has been a most remarkable example of self-help in urban renewal, since it has operated against every kind of obstruction and opposition. So keen have they been on urban renewal that the Department of the Environment survey found that 71 per cent of squatters claimed to have made some kind of improvement to the property they occupied. One of them, Andy Ingham, wrote a Self Help House Repairs Manual specifically for squatters, published by Penguin in 1975 and continually reprinted. Of course the one thing most squatters most desire is legitimisation with a rent book, and the London Borough of Lewisham was the pioneer authority in 'licensed squats'.

Several of our most enterprising and successful housing co-operatives have grown out of the squatters' movement. In a forthcoming study of housing co-operatives, Dr Johnston Birchall of the Institute of Community Studies reminds us that some well-established co-ops, like Seymour Co-op in West London, grew out of squatters who 'took on the management of short-life property and then evolved as they gained experience and confidence, into the promotion of long-life co-ops' and that short-life housing in general 'originated out of the squatters' movement' (Building Communities: The Co-operative Way, 1988). Roof Housing Co-operative in Lambeth evolved from a squat by people who were convinced that housing allocation policy was discriminatory. (Surveys conducted by the Commission for Racial Equality showed that their conviction was correct.) Jheni Arboine, the secretary, told Shelter that 'the days when white middle-class people determined the needs of black people are over so far as we are concerned. Groups like ours are going some way towards destroying the "old boy network" that exists in housing, a network that until recently excluded anyone who was black.' She goes on to say that 'black people are now prepared to take on their own housing problems and we no longer want or need white missionary types to treat us like poor people with problems that we're not capable of solving ourselves' (Roof, November/December 1986). The squatters' movement, just like gentrification, is a great know-how builder: a lesson in the art of working the system. It's a lesson in dweller control.

And a consideration of the evolution of several groups from despised squatters to admired co-operators leads me to my last case-history of self-help in urban renewal, based once again on what has actually happened, rather than on what could happen, or what I would like to happen. Ideology may prevent you from learning from the gentrifiers on the one hand and the squatters on the other, but I want for my final example to evoke Ebenezer Howard's 'gift of sweet reasonableness' in 'appealing to the English instinct for finding common ground'.

Housing co-operatives, of which we had hardly any fifteen years ago, but of which we have several hundreds today, ought to appeal right across the political spectrum. They should win the support of the present Government - and in fact a clause in the Housing and Planning Act of 1986, which came into force in January 1987, allows local authorities to delegate the management of houses and flats to tenant co-operatives as well as giving tenants' groups the right to put such a proposition on the council's agenda'. They should win the support of the present Opposition, since the co-operative movement as a whole was part of that network of organs of working-class self-help and mutual aid which created the labour movement in the nineteenth century. And they should appeal to the various parties in between.

It was my privilege in November 1986 to chair a meeting which brought together the various people from up and down the country who are involved in monitoring the experience of co-operative housing. (It is precisely because this form of dweller-controlled self-help has been neglected for a century that we have had to gain experience and learn about the successes and failures in a hurry.) One of the striking things about the preliminary findings that we were told about concerned precisely the burning question of repairs and renovations - of urban renewal, in fact. For example, Peter Bolan of Bristol Polytechnic reported that, at Cloverhill Self-Management Co-operative at Rochdale, there was felt to be 'considerable improvement especially on smaller repairs'. David Clapham of Glasgow University reported on his research in the very interesting large-scale transfer of former council housing in Glasgow to tenant co-operatives. He found that among tenants it was thought immensely important that tenants themselves should be able to organise and carry out not only minor and major repairs, but also renovations and modernisation programmes, and that they and not the council should employ people for this purpose. It was Glasgow's Director of Housing who declared last year that 'our greatest resource is not our 171,000 council houses, but the tenants. The potential is there waiting to be released' (Roof, July/August 1986). And at that same meeting Anthea Tinker, giving a preliminary account of the Department of the Environment's current research on housing co-operatives, found 'a high degree of satisfaction. The speed and quality of repairs are valued more than anything else' (to be reported in Housing Review).

We have varieties of self-help in urban renewal to suit all tastes. What we need is not only a huge extension of access to finance, but a broadening of access to know-how and a simplification of procedures. We also need, as Ebenezer Howard insisted ninety years ago, to burst the bubble of urban land valuation.

A talk given on 27 January 1987 to the Town and Country Planning Association conference on 'Our Deteriorating Housing Stock: Financing and Managing New Solutions'.


The Raven #03 1987

An issue of The Raven journal from November 1987 covering various issues.

Contents below.

Submitted by Fozzie on November 14, 2021


In response to the articles on surrealism in England in issue 2:

  • Dubious Guest At The Party - Conroy Maddox
  • Gentlemen First - George Melly
  • Surprise, Surprise!: A Curate's Egg - Philip Sansom


  • Alexander Berkman's Russian Diary - Nicolas Walter

Illustrations between pages 233 and 240.




2 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Fozzie on November 14, 2021

Quite a decent issue of the much maligned journal IMHO.

The main features by Ward, Bookchin and Burgess are all well worth a look.

The Path Not Taken - Colin Ward

photo of Colin Ward speaking at the International Anarchist Conference in Venice
photo of Colin Ward speaking at the International Anarchist Conference in Venice, September 1984

Colin Ward contrasts working class self-help with the welfare state.

From The Raven #3, 1987.

Submitted by Fozzie on November 15, 2021

Most writers produce, every now and then, a sentence or a phrase which, to their immense gratification, other people quote. This is my most-quoted paragraph:

When we compare the Victorian antecedents of our public institutions with the organs of working-class mutual aid in the same period, the very names speak volumes. On the one side the Workhouse, the Poor Law Infirmary, the National Society for the Education of the Poor in Accordance with the Principles of the Established Church; and on the other, the Friendly Society, the Sick Club, the Co-operative Society, the Trade Union. One represents the tradition of fraternal and autonomous associations springing up from below, the other that of authoritarian institutions directed from above.

My quotable paragraph, which was first published in Freedom in 1956, was not at all original. It expresses what ought to be a commonplace of social history. But it stresses a truth that has been ignored by socialists for generations. And since we are in that season when the heavyweights of the left are filling the feature pages of The Guardian to provide their own diagnoses of why their chosen parties have failed to win the last General Election, it is worth looking, from an anarchist point of view, at the failure of British socialism to win the hearts of the British public.

In this connection the paragraph I most enjoy quoting, and frequently do quote, comes from the fourth Fabian Tract, published in 1886, called What Socialism Is. The anonymous introduction to this document remarked:

English Socialism is not yet Anarchist or Collectivist, nor yet defined enough in point of policy to be classified. There is a mass of Socialistic feeling not yet conscious of itself as Socialism. But when the unconscious Socialists of England discover their position, they also will probably fall into two parties: a Collectivist party supporting a strong central administration and a counterbalancing Anarchist party defending individual initiative against that, administration.

I have always found that to be an extraordinarily interesting unfulfilled prophecy, not because anyone would have expected an anarchist 'party' in the ordinary political sense to have emerged, but because it was evident a century ago that there were other paths to socialism beside the electoral struggle for power over the centralised state. In the nineteenth century the British working class built up from nothing a vast network of social and economic initiatives based on self-help and mutual aid. The list is endless: friendly societies, building societies, sick clubs, coffin clubs, clothing clubs, up to enormous enterprises like the trade union movement and the Co-operative movement. How have we allowed that tradition to ossify?

The Indian politician Jayaprakash Narayan used to say that Gandhi used up all the moral oxygen in India, so the British Raj suffocated. In exactly the same way, I would claim that the political left in this country invested all its fund of social inventiveness in the idea of the state, so that its own traditions of self-help and mutual aid were stifled for lack of ideological oxygen. How on earth did British socialists allow these concepts to be hi-jacked by the political right, since it is these human attributes, and not the state and its bureaucracies, that actually hold human society together?

Politically, it was because of the sinister alliance of Fabians and Marxists, both of whom believed implicitly in the state, and assumed that they would be the particular elite in control of it. Administratively, it was because of the equally sinister alliance of bureaucrats and professionals: the British civil service and the British professional classes, with their undisguised contempt for the way ordinary people organised anything. I can't improve on Ivan Illich's conclusions about the professionalisation of knowledge:

It makes people dependent on having their knowledge produced for them. It leads to a paralysis of the moral and political imagination. This cognitive disorder rests on the illusion that the knowledge of the individual citizen is of less value than the 'knowledge' of science. The former is the opinion of individuals. It is merely subjective and is excluded from policies. The latter is `objective' — defined by science and promulgated by expert spokesmen. This objective knowledge is viewed as a commodity which can be refined, constantly improved, accumulated and fed into a process, now called 'decision-making'. This new mythology of governance by the manipulation of knowledge-stock inevitably erodes reliance on government by people. . . . Overconfidence in `better knowledge' becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People first cease to trust their own judgement and then want to be told the truth about what they know. Over-confidence in 'better decision-making' first hampers people's ability to decide for themselves and then undermines their belief that they can decide.

The great tradition of working-class self-help and mutual aid was written off, not just as irrelevant, but as an actual impediment, by the political and professional architects of the welfare state, aspiring for a universal public provision of everything for everybody. The contribution that the recipients had to make to all this theoretical bounty was ignored as a mere embarrassment — apart, of course, from paying for it. The nineteenth-century working class, living below the tax threshold, taxed themselves in pennies every week for the upkeep of their innumerable friendly societies. The twentieth-century working class, as well as the alleged 'National Insurance' contributions, pays one-third of its income for the support of the state, quite apart from indirect taxation too. The socialist ideal was rewritten as a world where everyone was entitled to everything, but where nobody except the providers had any actual say about anything. We are learning today in the anti-welfare backlash what a very vulnerable utopia that was.

History itself was rewritten to suit the managerial, political and bureaucratic vision. 'Beatrice Webb admitted doctoring the presentation of her evidence on friendly societies for the 1909 report', remarked Roy Porter (New Society, 28 February 1986), as though everybody knew this. And whether in school or in higher education, whatever is taught about the origins of the welfare state implies that twentieth-century state universalism replaced the pathetic unofficial, voluntary, or philanthropic pioneering ventures of the nineteenth century. However, in the past 20 years or so, a new interest in popular history, exemplified by the History Workshop movement and by the boom in local history and oral history, has uncovered buried layers of our past.

Take education as an example. We have all absorbed as gospel the official line that it was only rivalry between religious bodies that delayed until 1870 (and in effect 1880 or later) universal, free and compulsory elementary education. A centenary publication from the National Union of Teachers explained that 'apart from religious and charitable schools, "dame" or common schools were operated by the private enterprise of people who were often barely literate', and it explained the widespread working-class hostility to the school boards with the remark that 'parents were not always quick to appreciate the advantages of full-time schooling against the loss of extra wages' (The Struggle for Education, 1970).

But recent historians have shown the resistance to state schooling in a quite different light. Stephen Humphries, for instance, finds that these private schools, by the 1860s 'were providing an alternative education for approximately one-third of all working-class school children', and suggests:

This enormous demand for private as opposed to public education is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that working-class parents in a number of major cities responded to the introduction of compulsory attendance regulations not by sending their children to provided state schools, as government inspectors had predicted, but by extending the length of their child's education in private schools. Parents favoured these schools for a number of reasons: they were small and close to home and were consequently more personal and more convenient than most publicly provided schools; they were informal and tolerant of irregular attendance and unpunctuality; no attendance registers were kept; they were not segregated according to age and sex; they used individual as opposed to authoritarian teaching methods; and, most important, they belonged to, and were controlled by, the local community rather than being imposed on the neighbourhood by an alien authority. (Hooligans or Rebels? An Oral History of Working-Class Childhood and Youth, 1889-1939, Blackwell, 1981).

His point of view is reinforced by a mass of statistical evidence in the study of The Lost Elementary Schools of Victorian England (Groom Helm, 1984) by Philip Gardner, who finds that the working-class schools, set up by working-class people in working-class neighbour-hoods, 'achieved just what the customers wanted: quick results in basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic, wasted no time on religious studies and moral uplift, and represented a genuinely alternative approach to childhood learning to that prescribed by the education experts'. The price of eliminating these schools has been, in the view of the historian Paul Thompson, 'the suppression in countless working-class children of the very appetite for education and ability to learn independently which contemporary progressive education seeks to rekindle' (New Society, 6 December 1984). It is certainly ironical that the centenary of state education was accompanied by a phalanx of sociologists explaining to us that the function of the public education system has been to slot working-class children into working-class jobs.

Another field where the excavation of previously distorted history has yielded surprising facts is that of medicine. David Green's study of self-governing working-class medical societies shows that the self-organisation of patients provided a rather better degree of consumer control of medical services than has been achieved in post-Lloyd George and post-Bevan days (Working-Class Patients and the Medical Establishment: Self-Help in Britain from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to 1948, Gower/Temple, 1986). Not the least of the virtues of his remarkable book is that, as Roy Porter notes, 'he takes that hallowed belief of progressives --- that the improvement of the people's health hinges on state intervention — challenges its historical accuracy, and questions whether it is, in any case, a good doctrine for the Left to hold' (New Society, 28 February 1986).

Housing is another area where there is a buried tradition recently re-discovered. Just at the moment when the building societies (the normal source of private housing finance in Britain) are getting rid of the last vestiges of their non-profit, friendly society origins, it is worth reminding ourselves that they too began as organs of working-class self-help. We have had almost two centuries of popular aspirations to get out of the landlord-tenant relationship, beginning with the `terminating' building societies begun by people who clubbed together to house themselves. What kind of ideological idiocy in the labour movement has allowed the Conservatives to present themselves as the champions of council tenants against municipal paternalism? We actually reached such a degree of absurdity that when Lewisham's Labour council decided by one vote to turn over those sites which were too small or uneven for its own housing programme to the Lewisham Self-Build Housing Association (formed by people on its own waiting list), the leader of an adjoining borough, faced with the immense success of this enterprise, remarked, 'We aren't going to turn our tenants into little capitalists' (see my book When We Build Again, Pluto Press, 1985). In Liverpool, a whole series of co-operative initiatives have shown the ability of poor people to find a site, select their own architect with whom to design their own housing, and then to commission their own builder, and finally to run their own estate (see Alan McDonald, The Weller Way: The Story of the Weller Street Housing Co-operative, Faber, 1986). Faced with these achievements of working class self-organisation, you would expect their socialist councillors to rejoice. Instead they have responded with absolute hostility.

How sad that in Britain, birthplace of friendly societies, trade unionism and the Co-operative movement, socialists should have been so intoxicated with power and bureaucracy and the mystique of the state that they should dismiss their own inheritance as a path not worth taking! Social welfare has been surrendered to the state as well as the income to pay for them, the state's way. For most of the post-war decades there was a consensus between the political parties on state paternalism in welfare. The advent of Thatcherism ended that and, if you believe that continued electoral success implies the popularity of a government, Thatcher's three terms of office, even though the politicians of the left tend to exaggerate the extent of the onslaught on welfare, certainly indicate, first, that the intention is there and, second, that the British public hasn't risen in outrage to defend the threatened edifice.

Thatcherism has two opposite characteristics: its rhetoric and its actions. The rhetoric is about lifting the burden of the state and encouraging local enterprise and individual initiative. The action is about destroying the pretence that local government is local and imposing central government's will on more and more areas of life. A dissenting Conservative MP, Ian Gilmour, sums up current policy as `Manchester liberalism minus the idealism and plus a centralising State' (quoted in The Observer, 9 August 1987). If it is confusing to the citizen, it also provides difficulties for anarchist propagandists. For decades people responded to our propaganda about the nature of the state with the observation that our views were out of date: it was a benign organisation for social welfare. If we now use the new historical research, as I am seeking to use it, people tell us that it is very like Thatcherism. Philip Gardner's comments on those parent-controlled schools sound like the 'Parent Power' sloganising of the Conservative Secretary of State for Education. But the shallowness of the slogan is revealed by his intention to impose a National Curriculum on all state schools.

It is the same with housing. My own agitation for many years for dweller control as the first principle of housing is echoed by the language of the Thatcher government, and is bitterly opposed by the political left. But in fact the co-op housing movement, as a contemporary survey shows, is 'caught in the crossfire between local authorities and central government'. Jose Ospina goes on to remark: 'The irony of foisting co-ops on councils that don't want them, while blocking the schemes put forward by the councils that do, must not be lost on us. But such opportunism is bound to undermine and demoralise those who are promoting such initiatives seriously' (Housing Ourselves, Hilary Shipman, 1987).

Maybe it was the advice of their advertising agents that enabled the party of big business to exploit deeply felt popular sentiment with such triumphant cynicism. But the fault is that of the labour movement in rejecting its own history and origins for the sake of a version of socialism which is governmental, bureaucratic, paternalistic and unloved. The Sociologist Ray Pahl put it well when he suggested:

Not only have those with a collectivist ideology imposed this as the so-called natural or 'instinctive' political response of ordinary workers, but they have managed to imply that those who object to the tyrannies of the town hall have been de-radicalised. . . . People have been puzzled to discover that what they most wanted — a home of their own — was in some way a betrayal of a greater goal. 'Privatisation' was scorned by the municipal socialists, who thus alienated themselves from their natural supporters (Division of Labour, Blackwell, 1984).

It's going to be a long haul for the political left to unburden itself of all that Fabian, Marxist, managerial and professional baggage, and rediscover its roots in the tradition of fraternal and autonomous associations springing up from below. We anarchists ought to be around with our signposts, pointing the way.

A shortened version of this article appeared in The Guardian on 12 October 1987.


The Raven #04 1988

An issue of The Raven journal from March 1988 covering various issues. Articles of extremely variable quality.

Contents below.

Submitted by Fozzie on November 19, 2021


  • Editorial
  • Johann Most in Europe - Heiner Becker
  • Computers and Anarchism - Paul Rabin
  • Designing the new Zones of Deviancy: Professional Criminology and Anarchist Impulses - Chris Powell
  • The Geography and Landscapes of an Anarchist Britain - David Pepper
  • Rudolf Rocker's Anarcho-Syndicalism - Nicolas Walter
  • Sexual Freedom for the Young: Society and the Sexual Life of Children and Adolescents - John Hewetson (introduced by Colin Ward)
  • A Reply to Black Flag
  • The Catachresis of Ecology - Donald Rooum

Illustrations between pages 305 and 312 (pages 19-26 in the PDF).


Raven4.pdf (12.09 MB)



2 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Fozzie on November 19, 2021

"Computers and Anarchism" by Paul Rabin is comically terrible as well as being very dated.

The John Hewetson article is very peculiar. On the plus side, it makes some surprisingly forward thinking points for the early 1950s when it was written. The general point that ridding society of sexual repression will have many wide-ranging benefits is good. The specific point that this alone will prevent the killing of children seems... optimistic. Its focus on the sexual freedom of children on the island of Trobriand is interesting but quite narrow and begs the question of the other aspects of that society and this, and what bearing they might have on sexuality, freedom, oppression and violence.

I couldn't be arsed with the articles on geography and criminology.


2 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Fozzie on November 19, 2021

LOL. Ah yes. Forgot that one last step! Here you go.

The Raven #05 1988

An issue of The Raven journal from June 1988 covering various topics. Contents of extremely variable quality.

Includes an excellent article about Spies For Peace by Nicolas Walter.

Contents below.

Submitted by Fozzie on December 4, 2021


  • Editorial
  • Illustrations for Kenneth Rexroth's Bestiary - Clifford Harper
  • Raven: Prometheus Amongst The Indians - George Woodcock
  • Victor Neuberg: The Poet Among the Anarchists - Caroline Robinson
  • The Appalling State of Modern Architecture - Brian Richardson
  • Welcoming The Thinner City - Colin Ward
  • The Source of Anarchism - George Walford
  • Anarchism, Existentialism and Human Nature - L. Susan Brown
  • The Spies for Peace and After - Nicolas Walter [uncredited at the time]

Illustrations on pages 3-6, 10, 22, 29, 73-76, 89-90.


raven5-1988.pdf (17.82 MB)


The Spies for Peace and after – Nicolas Walter

One of the definitive articles on Spies For Peace by one of the group's members, Nicolas Walter. Originally published anonymously in The Raven (1988).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 4, 2022

The Spies for Peace episode at Easter 1963 was one of the most successful single actions of the old Nuclear Disarmament movement. It is described here in some detail partly to preserve the memory of such a dramatic event in the recent history of the British left and partly to consider what lessons may still be drawn from it.

First let us summarise the achievement, purpose and significance of the people who called themselves the Spies for Peace. Their main achievement was to make public the secret plans of the authorities for an emergency regional government of the country in the case of nuclear warfare—or of political breakdown. Until they took a hand, these plans were known only to the relatively few people involved and were deliberately concealed from the wider population in whose name (and at whose expense) they had been made. A combination of the criminal law, embodied in the Official Secrets Acts, and of bureaucratic tradition, supported by the media, meant that not only possibly damaging military information, but perfectly innocuous civilian material was surrounded by an elaborate curtain of security, and that the only public references to the system were guarded hints in the press.

Their main purpose was not to render assistance to any enemy country or subversive organisation, but to provide this information to the general public and at the same time to reinforce the argument of the Nuclear Disarmament movement that the official preparations for a future war were directed against rather than towards the welfare of ordinary people. Their main significance was to show that a small underground group could take effective direct action against the power of the establishment, discover and distribute secret information very widely, avoid detection and punishment, and through such propaganda by both word and deed set an example for subsequent exposure of more such material.

Crisis in the Committee of 100

The Spies for Peace had nothing to do with any foreign power or any Marxist party, but were a group of libertarian activists in the Committee of 100.

The old Nuclear Disarmament movement—like all reformist or revolutionary movements—tended from its beginnings soon after the Second World War to be polarised between moderates, who favoured constitutional action through conventional demonstrations and pressure on Parliament, and radicals, who favoured direct action through unconventional demonstrations and pressure from the people.

The moderates were represented by a series of organisations culminating at the beginning of 1958 in the formation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which had broad support but was run by a small group of political activists, mainly associated with the Labour Party and later also with the Communist Party. The radicals were represented by a series of organisations leading at the end of 1957 to the formation of the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War, which organised small-scale non-violent demonstrations and won little support for a couple of years, and culminating at the end of 1960 in the formation of the Committee of 100, which organised a series of large-scale non-violent demonstrations and won considerable support for a couple of years.

The Committee of 100 was particularly successful in attracting radicals both from the old revolutionary left and from the New Left which had emerged during the late 1950s as well as old pacifists and new anti-militarists, and also in combining the long tradition of popular protest and resistance with the fresh techniques of non-violent civil disobedience.

By the end of 1962, however, the Committee of 100 was in serious and worsening difficulties. The original Committee was based in London, where it held its meetings and maintained a paid staff in a permanent office. Its success during 1961 led to such increase in support all over the country that at the beginning of 1962 it was replaced by a dozen regional Committees, which took over the organisation of action, very loosely coordinated by a federal National Committee of 100, which took over the existing staff and office and the organisation of national meetings in various parts of the country. (The development of a bureaucracy was prevented by the authorities through frequent arrests of leading officials!)

This process of devolution increased local autonomy and activity but weakened the sense of unity and direction of the original Committee. At the same time the imprisonment for twelve or eighteen months of six of its most active leaders in February 1962 (for organising its most ambitious demonstration at Wethersfield and several other places on 9 December 1961) weakened the sense of confidence and courage of the whole radical wing of the Nuclear Disarmament movement.

The various Committees were increasingly divided by theoretical arguments about non-violence and direct action and broader political aims and by practical arguments about how to regain the initiative and how to restore the sense of identity. Meanwhile the moderate wing of the movement, represented by CND, was dominated by the need to remain respectable and acceptable in the face of the temporary success of the Committee of 100, and there was considerable discontent among the rank and file over its activity. Its major new policy statement, Steps Towards Peace (which was drafted by the New Left leader Smart Hall and issued in November 1962), was widely considered to betray the cause of unilateralism, and the plan to hold yet another conventional march from Aldermaston to London at Easter 1963, without any radical demonstrations on the way or a dramatic climax at the end, was similarly considered to ignore the developments of the past two years.

The problems of the Committee of 100 were most acute in London. The London Committee, which was inaugurated on 1 April 1962, was by far the largest single organisation in the movement. It was the only one apart from the National Committee itself to maintain paid staff and a permanent office, and it also had a Working Group which met every week and a local convenor system. But it was the most deeply troubled. After the last demonstration organised by the original Committee of 100—a sit-down in Parliament Square on 24 March 1962—it proved impossible to organise a major demonstration in London, other than emergency actions arising from sudden international events (such as the American and Russian nuclear tests in April and August and the Cuba crisis in October).

The London Committee decided at its second meeting, on 13 May, to organise a large-scale sit-down in Whitehall for 9 September; but as late as 2 September this had to be cancelled because of lack of support (only 4,000 pledges were received, against a target of 7,000) and reorganised as a conventional demonstration two weeks later.

All of the most important Committee of 100 demonstrations during this period were organised outside London—by the Scottish Committee (at Holy Loch on 10 June), by the Oxford Committee (at Greenham Common on 23-24 June), and by the East Anglian Committee (at Honington on 20 October)—though most of the participants in the last two came from the London region. The most successful of all took place outside Britain—in the Red Square in Moscow, when members of the Committee of 100 held a public meeting during the World Disarmament Conference on 13 July.

The position had been made still more serious by the failure of the Committee of 100 generally to respond adequately to the Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962, when neither the non-aligned policy nor the non-violent methods of the Committee made much impact. The famous people who had made up most of the original Committee of 100 dropped out—culminating in the resignation of Bertrand Russell in November 1962, when the London Committee dissociated itself from his biased position during the Cuba crisis.

Meeting after meeting failed to decide the crucial issues of 'future action' because the membership was so deeply divided over the basic issue of what kind of action was appropriate once 'sit-downs' had lost their novelty. The other regional Committees became increasingly impatient with the state of the London Committee—as a meeting of the National Committee of 100 in London on 18-19 August noted tactfully, 'It was generally agreed that the London Cttee should be regarded as in a state of transition' —and also with the weakness of the National Committee.

This critical situation in the Committee of 100 was the scene of the development of the Spies for Peace, who emerged from the London Committee during the long, cold winter of 1962-1963.

Beyond Counting Arses

At the end of 1962 the London Committee of 100 provisionally planned another large-scale sit-down in Central London for 12 May 1963, but it proved impossible to settle the details and even to confirm the principle of such a demonstration. At the beginning of 1963 this became the symbol of the deepening crisis in the Committee movement. On 14 January a meeting of the London Working Group revealed strong dissatisfaction with the planned demonstration; there was a close vote to cancel it, and a general feeling that there should be a major demonstration before Easter, but no agreement about what to put in its place. On 21 January the London Committee held an emergency meeting to discuss the issue. The circumstances were particularly unfortunate: Helen Allegranza—a popular member of the Committee, the only woman among the six imprisoned leaders, and the new secretary of the National Committee—was found dead that day, and the news of her suicide cast a shadow over the whole meeting; and a power-cut that evening meant that it had to be held in virtual darkness as well as extreme cold.

The 3 1/2-hour meeting was dominated by bitter disagreements, which were not resolved by a series of decisions to go ahead with the 12 May demonstration as an orthodox 'public assembly' culminating in a traditional sit-down, and also to hold a march to Parliament on Budget Day, 3 April.

A small group of members present who were strongly opposed to these decisions felt that it had become essential to make some kind of collective stand which would bring home to the Committee leaders and officials that the rank and file of the movement was dissatisfied with such an unimaginative approach. They met at a pub immediately after the meeting and then at a Soho restaurant three days later, and began a series of frequent meetings to decide how to take the next appropriate opportunity to explain their dissident position and to influence their colleagues. They were begged by the officials of the National and London Committees and other leading figures not to harm the movement, but they decided that the situation had gone beyond polite disagreement and demanded much more radical dissent.

An appropriate opportunity arose immediately. On 9-10 February there was a national Way Ahead conference in London—the first of many — to consider the future of the Committee of 100. It was in effect a general meeting of the radical Nuclear Disarmament movement, most of those present being deeply unhappy in various ways about the way things were going but equally unable to agree about the way to improve them. As usual, nothing concrete emerged from the weekend's talk; but a paper was presented to the conference by the dissident group which defined once and for all the oppositionist line against the accepted forms of Committee activity—especially against the obsessions with non-violence, openness, symbolic actions, arrests, names, respectability, and so on.

The paper took the form of a duplicated eight-page quarto pamphlet called Beyond Counting Arses1 , written by one member of the group on the basis of its discussions and signed by eight others, dated 6 February and circulated on 7 February. It began by describing the confusion in the Nuclear Disarmament movement in general and in the Committee of 100 in particular, singling out 'the lack of common ground among its members and supporters' and its organisational chaos. It pungently expressed total dissatisfaction with the established policy of limping from sit-down to sit-down, relying on 'the number of arrested arses' and the length of the press reports to keep the whole process going. It insisted that the most significant demonstrations during the previous year—such as that in Moscow's Red Square in July 1962 and some of those in London during the Cuba crisis in October 1962—had taken place 'in spite of rather than through the Committee's normal structure'.

It dismissed 'the perennial back-to-the-womb suggestion for a mass sit-down in Whitehall'. It listed the assets of the Committee of 100—its past reputation, its experience of illegal activity, and the commitment of its members—and it called for a deliberate continuation of 'radical action' and also a move forward into more consciously subversive activity. The general proposal was that 'we must attempt to hinder the warfare state in every possible way'.

Three ways of doing this were suggested. The first was a campaign of 'Civil Disobedience in Print to 'unmask and publicise the most secret preparations of the Warfare State . . . publish the location of rocket bases and what goes on in the germ warfare centres . . . give details about the secret hide-outs of "civil" defence—and the secretly kept lists of those who will be catered for in the event of nuclear war . . . publish the names of the emergency government "gauleiters" and details of phone-tapping and of the activities of the Special Branch'. The general position laid down was as follows:

As recent events have shown, the Official Secrets Act does not really function to prevent espionage, but to keep the facts from the people of this country. There can be little information that a foreign power cannot obtain by bribery, blackmail or plain observation. We propose that the Committee should deliberately take the lid off these facts, and let people know what the state does in their name. It is clear that activities of this sort would have to involve certain measures of secrecy, analogous to those practised by VND [the Voice of Nuclear Disarmament, the pirate radio system loosely associated with the Committee of 100].

Various other forms of action were proposed or suggested, and the paper ended with the following conclusion:

'We do not believe in passive martyrdom. We are not in this movement to opt out of a burden on our consciences but to fight for what we believe in.'

The discovery of RSG-6

Beyond Counting Arses had no effect on the conference itself, though it irritated or impressed many of those who read it. In the light of this situation, the group—reinforced by some new members who were interested in putting its proposals into practice—decided that if it couldn't influence the Committee movement by argument it would have to do so by action, either by a small but dramatic demonstration of its own or else by the organisation of a mass demonstration which it could prepare and then present to the movement as a fait accompli. In either case, it was felt necessary to bypass the inevitable bottle-neck of prolonged discussion and persistent dissent in the Committee by doing whatever had to be done themselves.

On 15 February the group considered various possible actions—to sabotage the parliamentary debate on the Defence White Paper on 4-5 March or the Budget speech on 3 April, whether by interrupting the debate or by disrupting it with the release of some noxious substance from the public gallery (the latter plan was eventually put into effect seven years later, when a CS gas canister was thrown into the chamber in July 1970); to organise a `sleep-out' in the Reading streets or a 'sleep-in' at the Reading Town Hall on the first night of the Aldermaston March, in protest against the Council's threat to refuse accommodation to the marchers; or else to organise some kind of diversion of the March at a suitable place along the route.

At this point in the discussion it was remembered that political contacts in Reading had once mentioned someone knowing someone who had worked at a secret bunker near the town. This seemed worth following up, so on 16 February four members of the group drove to Reading. The contacts confirmed that the person in question had been a workman employed on installing equipment in an underground bunker just off the A4, the Reading-London main road—that is, the route of the Aldermaston March on its second day. On the strength of this information they immediately searched the whole area. After many hours of driving over ice-covered roads and tramping over snow-covered fields in the middle of the worst winter for years, at the end of the afternoon they finally found what they assumed must be the place, at the east end of the village of Warren Row, a couple of miles off the main road, eight miles out of Reading. They climbed over the low bank by the locked gate to have a closer look. They took photographs of the general view of the place, the ramp, the air filters, the electric cables, the radio masts, and so on. They were just about to leave when one of them tried the boiler-house door and found that it was unlocked. They went in, looked around, and were about to go out again when they noticed another door, which was also unlocked; it led to a steep staircase which led down into a huge office complex. They rushed down, took a quick look round, grabbed what papers they could find on a desk and a notice-board near the entrance, saw from the visitors' book that the boiler-man was due to call in half an hour, and rushed out again.

On 17 February the London Committee of 100 yet again considered future action, and after another long discussion finally decided to cancel the proposed demonstration on 12 May in favour of supporting a demonstration organised by the East Anglian Committee of 100 at the Marham nuclear base on 11 May. But by this time it was too late for the group to be diverted from its own activity, and anyway this decision, though welcome, seemed only to confirm that the London Committee was still unable to do anything on its own account.

The Spies for Peace

On 20 February the whole group held a crucial meeting to discuss what had happened and to decide what to do next. They first heard a rough account drafted by one of them of what the papers revealed—that they had discovered a Regional Seat of Government (called RSG-6), only about 20 minutes' walk from the Aldermaston route—and they examined the photographs which had been taken. This seemed to be an opportunity beyond their wildest dreams, but before taking it they had to consider its implications. All the members present said in turn what they should now do. The overwhelming majority agreed that they should independently produce a pamphlet about RSG-6 on the basis of the material discovered in Warren Row, and secretly distribute it to the movement in time for the Aldermaston March seven weeks ahead, in the hope that there would be a major demonstration at the site.

There was some disagreement from a small minority, who argued either that such an action would tend to wreck the Committee of 100 and that the function of the group should continue to be that of an open pressure-group within the Committee rather than become a secret cell outside on its own, or else that such an action, however desirable it might seem, would inevitably lead to the arrest and imprisonment of those responsible. After a long discussion, the group decided to go ahead, and the minority left the meeting and took no further part in the group's activities. At the same time the group decided to exclude its more prominent and vulnerable members from direct participation, though they would be kept informed of progress, and also not to include any more members for the time being, except to approach outsiders on a ‘need-to-know’ basis for any necessary help with particular details. The people who remained active members of the group at this stage became the Spies for Peace.

There were eight of them, all in their twenties. They were mostly men with middle-class backgrounds, though two were women (one of whom was pregnant) and two were working-class in origin. Several of them were drop-outs from the educational system, though two of them had Oxbridge degrees. Between them they had one small car and the use of a delivery van. They had all been active in the Committee of 100 in various ways—some of them as full-time workers or local convenors or members of the Industrial Sub-Committee—and they had all been arrested on demonstrations several times. Most of them had previous experience of left-wing politics covering all kinds of groups—CND or the New Left, student or trade unions, Labour or Communist Party, Trotskyist or anarchist organisations—and between them they had a wide circle of contacts all over the country (their closest connections outside the Nuclear Disarmament movement being with the new Solidarity group and the old Freedom group). They had got to know each other well during the previous year or two, and now shared both a personal commitment to radical action and also a common acceptance of libertarian socialism (though hardly any of them would have called themselves anarchists).

Having decided to produce a pamphlet, they had to settle several other questions. The next decision they made was that the pamphlet should be produced in conditions of complete security, to minimise the chances of the authorities being able either to interrupt their work before it was complete or of catching them afterwards. They were prepared to take necessary risks, but not to offer themselves up for sacrifice. They took into special account the experience of the publication of an analogous official secret five years earlier.

The Isis case

When the Second World War was followed by the Cold War between Communist Russia and the West, the American and British governments (joined by Canada, Australia and New Zealand) made a secret treaty in 1947 known as the United Kingdom United States of America Security Agreement (UKUSA). This established a joint system of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), concentrating on the surveillance of Russian military radio traffic from bases in Europe and the Middle East. Many of the radio operators involved were National Servicemen taught Russian or Morse and trained as radio operators, who returned to civilian life—many going on to university—and were a potentially weak link in the security network.

During the 1950s there were several occasions when American and British aircraft and ships made deliberate incursions across the Iron Curtain in order to provoke radio traffic and provide valuable information. This activity was of course top secret, but it was obviously known to the Russians, and on a few occasions they retaliated by attacking and even destroying American or British aircraft, and the resulting international incidents led to considerable publicity and consequent embarrassment. This episode is described in a recent book on the subject by 'Nigel West' (the Conservative MP, Rupert Allason)—GCHQ: The Secret Wireless War, 1900-86 (1986)—in a chapter with the appropriate title 'Russian Adventures'.

The British authorities generally managed to cover up the significance of such incidents, but on one occasion their cover was blown. On 26 February 1958 a special H-Bomb issue of the Oxford student paper Isis included a short article called 'Frontier Incidents—Exposure', which described the SIGINT system and explained the frontier incidents.

. . . All along the frontier between east and west, from Iraq to the Baltic, perhaps farther, are monitoring stations, manned largely by National Servicemen trained in morse or Russian, avidly recording the least squeak from Russian transmitters—ships, tanks, aeroplanes, troops and control stations. It is believed, perhaps rightly, that this flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention can provide accurate estimates of the size and type of Russian armaments and troops, and the nature of their tactical methods.

In order to get this information the West has been willing to go to extraordinary lengths of deception. British Embassies usually contain monitoring spies. When the Fleet paid a 'goodwill' visit to Danzig in 1955 they were on board. And since the Russians do not always provide the required messages they are sometimes provoked.—A plane 'loses' its way; while behind the frontier tape recorders excitedly read the irritated exchanges of Russian pilots: and when the latter sometimes force the aeroplane to land an international incident is created, and reported in the usual fashion. . . . In a moment of crisis irresponsibility of this kind could well frighten the Russians into war. Certainly if Russian planes were to fly over American bases the American reply would be prompt. But there is no controlling the appetite of the statistical analysers at Cheltenham. . . .

The point of the article was of course that such incidents were more likely to cause than prevent war, and that such information should be made available to the British people as well as the Russian authorities. The authors were two undergraduates who had worked in SIGINT during their recent National Service in the Navy. The article was not signed, but security at Isis was poor, and the British authorities soon took their revenge. In March the office was raided and the editor interrogated, and Paul Thompson and William Miller were charged under the Official Secrets Act. They were tried at the Central Criminal Court in July, and after a deal with the prosecution they pleaded guilty and were sentenced to three months' imprisonment (they went on to distinguished careers in academic history and serious publishing respectively).

The offending article was immediately reprinted as a leaflet by the Universities & Left Review Club, the main organisation of the New Left in London, so the information was widely distributed, at least on the left; but the fate of the victims was a warning of the possible price to be paid for such activity, and the Spies for Peace were determined not to make the same mistakes. (Nigel West's account of this episode is very inaccurate.)

Danger! Official Secret RSG-6

The group then turned to the problem of whether they needed more material for the pamphlet. After further discussion of the risks to be taken and the advantages to be gained, they agreed that another visit to Warren Row was indeed necessary to obtain more information and to make the pamphlet more detailed and convincing. After leaving the material already collected with a sympathetic anarchist who worked in a Communist bookshop in London, they made careful preparations for a second visit to Warren Row on 23 February (a day when there were meetings of both the National Committee and the London Committee in London).

Four members of the group drove to Reading again, checked that the site was clear—noting with interest that there were workmen there during the day, even though it was a Saturday—and then spent the evening in a pub and watched the satirical late-night television programme That Was The Week That Was before returning to search the bunker at leisure. They arrived after midnight, picked the lock of the boiler-house door (which was shut this time) and spent several hours inside the installation. They found to their astonishment that the RSG was fully operational—the electricity and water were on, there were notices on the boards, signs in the corridors, maps on the walls, directories in the telephone exchange, desks and cabinets in the offices, and papers in the drawers. It was clear that nothing had been touched since it was last used during the NATO exercise Fallex 62 five months before—except that for some reason all the ashtrays had been locked up in an office.

First they explored the whole place, and then they specialised in various activities—one transcribed documents, one traced maps, one took photographs, and one ransacked every room. They took the greatest care to leave no trace of their visit. They wore gloves the whole time; they broke no locks, picking those they had to open; they took away only those papers which had duplicates, and copied those which hadn't; they photographed the signs and maps, and copied the plan of the bunker from a wall-chart. When they had finished, they put everything back in its place and left with a suitcase full of papers and a camera full of pictures. This technique was clearly successful, for when the pamphlet appeared both the authorities and the media assumed that an insider must have made some kind of deliberate leak rather than that some outsiders had simply broken into a sensitive and insecure installation and found all the necessary material right there in situ.

The material taken from Warren Row was looked after by the same bookshop assistant for a few days, just in case anyone had noticed anything. The group met again on 25 February and discussed the new material they had now obtained. Its significance lay not only in that it included far more information about the RSG system—including the locations of all the other RSGs and the identities of the staff of RSG-6 (and also of RSG-4 in Cambridge)—but that in addition it included detailed information about the disastrous results of two recent Civil Defence exercises—Parapluie in Spring 1962 and Fallex 62 in September. The latter had already been the subject of dramatic disclosures in October 1962 by the West German news magazine Der Spiegel, which had immediately been prosecuted by the authorities. The group decided that the pamphlet should contain as much information as possible about both aspects of their discoveries, and they immediately set to work to produce it.

They met regularly every Monday evening—that is, at the same time as the Working Group of the London Committee of 100, on the assumption that any likely surveillance would be diverted elsewhere—with more frequent contacts between various individual members in between. Six members lived within walking distance of each other in Hampstead, and the meetings took place in one or other of their three flats. A constant rule was that every single action involved in the operation must have a complete cover story which sounded convincing and could be checked. Another was that the absolute minimum of material was to be kept in writing or said on the telephone. Everything was decided at the meetings, and nothing was recorded. The procedure was completely informal, with no set structure. Decision were taken by consent rather than vote. (As is so often the case, those who did the most talking tended to do the least work.)

The first task was to write the text of the pamphlet. One member of the group prepared a rough draft based on the material from Warren Row, filled out by research in a reference library, completing it on 15 March; a second member then expanded this into a longer draft, adding the postscript, by 18 March; a third member then polished this into a final draft, adding the foreword, by 23 March. During the same period three other members drew out maps and developed the photographs. The text and form of the pamphlet were discussed and agreed by the whole group on 25 March. All the material taken or copied from Warren Row was then burnt, apart from the photographs.

The pamphlet was planned as follows. The group took the dramatic title 'Spies for Peace’, partly as a serious shorthand summary of their position, and partly as a frivolous joke at the expense of the Communist front organisations which used such titles. The pamphlet was to be typed and duplicated (those were the days before personal computers and cheap photocopying), since this could be done with the least trouble and the least risk. It was to be foolscap size, to minimise the number of stencils and the quantity of paper needed. It would have twelve pages, including four electro-stencils for illustrations. The only photograph used would be that of the outside of the RSG, so that there would be no indication that anyone had been inside it. There would be 4,000 copies, the maximum number stencils would run to. The pamphlet was given the inelegant but striking title Danger! Official Secret RSG-62 as a way of catching people's attention in the flood of papers and pamphlets always produced at Easter. The front page consisted of the title with the picture of RSG-6 (photographed in the snow). The text began with a short introduction, then described the RSG system, giving the locations (and telephone numbers) of all the known RSGs, described both the outside and inside of RSG-6, adding a list of its main personnel and a plan of its lay-out, described the two exercises, adding that the RSGs hadn't been activated during the Cuba crisis in October 1962 (with the comment that 'in the face of a real emergency, fuck all was done'), and ended with a conclusion, adding on the back page a map of the area with the suggestion of a demonstration there during the Aldermaston March.

The group calculated that the whole operation would cost about £100—about £1,000 today—which they knew they couldn't afford but thought they could probably raise. They decided to go ahead and see about recovering some of their costs from people who could afford it when they had something definite to show them. They bought a cheap old Underwood typewriter, and one member cut the nine text stencils; the electro-stencils were made by taking the photograph and the maps into a commercial firm in the normal way. By the time all this was ready, they realised that they had only enough time and would probably have only enough money for 3,000 copies after all. They then bought ink, staples, envelopes, wrappers and labels in the normal way. They obtained the paper through a sympathetic anarchist who worked in a pacifist bookshop in London and was able to supply the necessary three dozen reams of duplicating paper without awkward questions being asked. All this material was handled only with gloves at every stage; the coldness of the weather fortunately made this particular precaution seem nothing unusual.

Right up to the last moment they expected the pamphlet to be ignored by the mass media, so it was important to distribute it as widely and effectively as possible. Also every single copy—including their own —had to be sent out by post so that there would be no trace of their origin. About 2,000 copies were to be sent to people likely to be on the Aldermaston March and likely to know what to do—the members of the group themselves, other members of the Committee of 100 (bundles going to secretaries of Regional Committees and convenors of local Working Groups), people known to be sympathetic with the Committee of 100 in CND, Youth CND, the Young Socialists, and the New Left. Copies were also to go to all left-wing papers and magazines. This would at least ensure good publicity in the Nuclear Disarmament movement.

The other 1,000 copies were to go to people who might give it another kind of publicity, whatever happened on the March—national newspapers and magazines, Government ministers and Opposition leaders, right-wing Conservative and left-wing Labour MPs, civil servants, and a long list of 'progressive' celebrities in this country and abroad taken from Who's Who. Copies were also sent to key people in the area of southern England covered by RSG-6—local papers, local councillors, local government officials, constituency Labour Party and trade union branch secretaries, army officers, religious ministers, university dons, and, of course, the people listed on the staff of the RSG itself. One copy was sent to the British Museum, but it never appeared in the catalogue. Later a senior member of the Reading Room staff attempted to obtain a copy, but the person he approached refused to supply one if its availability was going to be restricted; no agreement was reached, so no copy was produced.

By the weekend before Easter, 6-7 April, everything was just ready. Some members of the group then showed typescripts of the final draft of the pamphlet to people they knew personally who had previously given money to the Committee of 100 and were likely to be sympathetic but not inquisitive. One former 'name' in the Committee gave £50, two others gave £10; one relatively rich surviving member of the Committee gave £25. This was just enough. The typescripts were then burnt.

Incidentally, Bertrand Russell did not give any money, though he intended to do so and even believed that he had done so. In the relevant passage of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, he described the work of the Spies for Peace and added: 'They had no funds, and appealed to me. I gave them £50 with my blessing' (Volume 3, p. 125). An approach was indeed made to contacts on Russell's staff, but the answer was that while Russell approved of the project he couldn't contribute to it financially—though the contacts themselves made a small contribution. Only later was it discovered that Russell had actually authorised a payment of £50, which had been prevented by Ralph Schoetunan, the most powerful member of the staff.

The final production of the pamphlet was completed during the week before Easter. The sheets were run off on the Solidarity duplicator in the premises of the Independent Labour Party in King's Cross Road, a building used by several left-wing organisations known to the group who wouldn't ask any questions. The work took from Sunday to Tuesday, the members taking turns as they could. At the same time the hundreds of labels were typed on the same typewriter. The sheets were assembled and wrapped and labelled in one of their flats from Tuesday evening to Wednesday afternoon, the members again taking turn as they could, some working right through the night and the next day. The stamps were bought in several Hampstead post offices, and again handled only with gloves. On the Wednesday afternoon they began posting the pamphlet at various places all over London, first the bundles being taken from post office to post office in the delivery van and then the envelopes being taken from post-box to post-box in the car.

Before all the thousands of packets could even be sorted, let alone delivered, the incriminating material was being destroyed. Everything that could be burnt was burnt. Of the things that couldn't, the typewriter was thrown into a river outside London, and—as a last touch of political malice—the cardboard boxes were left in dustbins outside the old Daily Worker office down the road in Farringdon Road. The photographs were posted anonymously to Bertrand Russell to provide him with any direct evidence he might need if he were approached by the press—as indeed he was; it was later discovered that when the police hunt began they were buried in his garden at Plas Penrhyn in North Wales, where they may be to this day. At the same time details of the staff in RSG-4 were sent to contacts in Cambridge, in the confidence that they would be either destroyed or published in a similar way. The final task was to clear out the flats of the members of the group thoroughly to make sure that there was no physical evidence linking them with the operation in any way.

By the Thursday morning, 11 April, when the pamphlet began to arrive all over the country in the post (which was more reliable in those days), there was nothing to show who was responsible. Everything had been disposed of except the pamphlets themselves, the pamphlets had all been got rid of, and they had no fingerprints, no traceable typeface or postmark, and only their contents to help the police with their inquiries. A secret had escaped, and so—they hoped—had the Spies for Peace.

Easter 1963

There was a couple of days' grace before any public comment on the pamphlet. It arrived after Thursday's newspapers had been published, there were no newspapers on Good Friday, and the radio and television news programmes took some time to catch up with it. On Thursday, the day before the Aldermaston March began, there was much discussion of the mysterious document among members of the Nuclear Disarmament movement—and no doubt among news editors and Government officials as well. When the March began at Aldermaston, on Friday morning, many of the marchers had already received copies, and further copies were quickly distributed among them and also to reporters. Soon the police began to seize it and question people about it, but of course no one knew who was responsible. Some people had already begun to produce reprints and summaries on Thursday, more did so on Friday, and many more during the rest of the weekend, which increased both the circulation of the pamphlet and the difficulties of the police. The details of the RSG system had been covered in a D-Notice (an official censorship instruction to the media) only two months earlier, and the authorities answered press inquiries by attempting to suppress the story, but in vain. The news of the pamphlet was broken to the general public on Saturday morning, when it was the main item in almost all national newspapers and radio news programmes, and it dominated all comment on the Aldermaston March for the rest of the weekend.

On Saturday the March was due to pass along the A4 main road a couple of miles away from Warren Row. On Friday night several marchers explored the area, produced leaflets calling for a demonstration there, and distributed them among the marchers in Reading overnight and along the March during the next morning. On Saturday this demonstration took place, exactly as had been hoped. Several hundred marchers—led by 'anarchists, left-wing socialists, and members of the Committee of 100' (as reported by Freedom)—turned off the main road during the lunch break at Knowl Hill, despite the noisy attempts of CND marshals—led by the general secretary, Peggy Duff—to discourage them from leaving the March, made their way to Warren Row and over the fences and banks around the site, and surrounded the entrance to RSG-6 for several hours, chanting slogans and singing songs (the latter were later collected in The RSG Song Book3 ). This, too, was widely reported, though the media made an elaborate business of not saying exactly where the demonstration had occurred.

The pamphlet dominated the rest of the March and helped to inspire the more radical marchers, co-ordinated by a March Must Decide Committee, in a series of diversionary activities, culminating on Easter Monday in a huge final demonstration in the West End of London —again led by anarchists, left-wing socialists, and members of the Committee of 100—which brought the weekend to a fitting climax.

Reactions and comments

The reaction of the radical wing of the Nuclear Disarmament movement, and indeed of the rank and file of the left in general, was quite as favourable as had been expected. Bertrand Russell issued a statement about the Aldermaston March on 16 April including strong praise: 'In particular, the authors of the pamphlet published by the Spies for Peace have performed a public service.' The Committee of 100 generally took the same line, with some qualifications about the danger of being diverted from its main activity, and its members and supporters around the country took the lead in all the following activities.

The reaction of CND was much more mixed, as had also been expected. The senior leaders—especially the chairman, L. John Collins, and Peggy Duff—were at first furious at what they saw as sabotage of the March, and only later grudgingly gave their approval. Peggy Duff said in her memoirs—Left, Left, Left (1971)—that 'the worst year we ever had on the march was 1963' (her account of the episode is very inaccurate). Canon Collins treated the episode differently in his memoirs—Faith Under Fire (1966)—by ignoring it completely. The younger leaders felt differently. The editor of the CND paper, Sanity (David Boulton of Tribune, later a prominent figure in Granada Television), naturally wished to publicise the pamphlet. In the special issue prepared on Friday and printed on Saturday for publication on Easter Sunday, the back page had an anonymous article called 'The Secret Society of War' discussing the subject in general terms, accompanied by an illustration with a caption identifying it as 'The cover picture of the secrets pamphlet, described as "the entrance to RSG-6, seen from the road that runs through Warren Row": This alarmed the CND officials so much that they insisted on first blacking out or cutting out the caption and then tearing out the whole page from all copies distributed. The article was reprinted without the illustration in the May issue, identified as being by Stuart Hall, and accompanied by a front-page article by David Boulton himself, giving some of the detailed information in the pamphlet; and a new illustration showed a marcher's banner with the location of RSG-6 written on it. As for the rank and file of CND, local groups played an active part in distributing reprints and summaries of the pamphlet.

The reaction of the rest of the left was similarly various. The hard Marxists said as little and as late as possible in the Daily Worker (Communist Party) and the Socialist Standard (Socialist Party of Great Britain). But the annual conference of the Independent Labour Party at the Easter weekend praised the Spies for Peace, as did the ILP Socialist Leader. So did the Trotskyist Newsletter. The anarchist paper Freedom was favourable, as was the syndicalist Direct Action. The pacifist paper Peace News was strongly favourable, publishing a front-page article called 'The spies were right' with a detailed account of the pamphlet and a back-page cartoon by Donald Rooum identifying the location of RSG-6 (19 April). The ILP youth paper New Generation later also gave a detailed account of the pamphlet (June).

The right-wing press was as hostile as was expected. The so-called left-wing national newspapers, the Daily Mirror and Daily Herald, were just as hostile, publishing furious condemnations respectively by Cassandra (16 April) and James Cameron (17 April)—the latter groaning, 'God save us from our friends.' Tribune and the New Statesman, and most left-wing Labour figures, were very ambivalent. The Labour Party leaders were either silent or hostile. The Conservative Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, had described the Spies for Peace as ‘traitors’; the shadow Foreign Secretary, Patrick Gordon- Walker, followed by saying that 'they are spies and must be treated as such'. The right-wing journalist Chapman Pincher said in the Daily Express (15 April) that they should be treated 'with the same rigour as spies for war’ that is, capital punishment! But when Parliament reassembled after the Easter recess on 23 April, the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, told the House of Commons that the whole affair had been greatly exaggerated, and the excitement began to subside.

How, and who?

The lasting effect of the episode remained to be seen, but the immediate effect was a wave of speculation about the source of the information in the pamphlet and the identity of those responsible for it. A deliberately misleading reference in the pamphlet to 'at least one occupant of at least one RSG' was taken as seriously as had been hoped. The general assumption was that the information must have been leaked by an insider rather than discovered by outsiders, and many people involved in the RSG system were subjected to unpleasant interrogation. The undramatic truth doesn't seem to have been guessed by anyone at the time.

As for the identity of the Spies for Peace themselves, they took care to remain as undetected after their operation as before it. The group automatically disbanded when their work was done, and some took a much-needed and well-earned holiday. Most of them went on the Aldermaston March, but they had nothing to do with the production and distribution of the many reprints and summaries of the pamphlet during the Easter weekend, or with the organisation of the demonstrations at RSG-6 and the various other RSGs around the country. Four of them took part in the demonstration at Warren Row on 13 April, and enjoyed the knowledge that their plan had worked perfectly. Four of them also took part in the demonstrations in London which marked the end of the March on 15 April and were partly inspired by their example, and some of them were arrested. But it was clear that virtually no one, whether in the movement or the media or the police, was sure exactly who they were.

Nevertheless it was fairly easy to guess who they might be. Of course a few of their close colleagues knew some of their identities, and some of their many other associates had ideas which were sometimes correct—though often incorrect. As for the authorities, their views will perhaps be better known when the official records are released under the thirty-year rule in 1994—though not necessarily even then.

At first, however, they clearly had no realistic ideas at all, and then they made much the same sort of guesses as anyone else. Police activity began at once, with threats and seizures and arrests and minor charges on the March, a break-in at the Committee of 100 office in London on 13 April, and interviews with possible suspects from 15 April. On 17 April members of the Special Branch raided a score of people in the London area, including the signatories of Beyond Counting Arses—or, rather, those they could trace—as well as some other people suspected of being involved. Nothing significant was found, and no charges were ever made.

Several of the actual Spies for Peace were never raided, and indeed seem never to have been suspected; whereas many of those suspected and raided had nothing to do with the operation at all. The problem of the authorities was that, while it proved fairly easy to establish the identities of some of the people responsible for the many reprints, it proved completely impossible to track down those responsible for the original pamphlet, and after a few weeks the official hunt died down.

Public speculation about the Spies for Peace was generally very badly informed. The defence correspondent of The Times, Alun Gwynne Jones (later Lord Chalfont), quoted the opinion of 'security officials' that they were 'supporters, probably communist, of nuclear disarmament' (13 April); the Daily Express, quoting the same sources, mentioned 'Communist agents' (15 April); and the Daily Telegraph referred to 'Communist subversion' (17 April); Tribune suggested an ‘agent-provocateur' (19 April); Clare Hollingworth, the defence correspondent of the Guardian, went so far as to suggest 'enemy agents' (13 May).

The main single suspect at the time was Peter Cadogan, secretary of the East Anglian Committee of 100 and convenor of the March Must Decide Committee (later prominent in the humanist movement); in fact he was completely innocent, and he played a valuable part in drawing off press attention for a few days. Subsidiary suspects were Philip Seed, a Committee of 100 activist who was also completely innocent, and George Clark, a prominent activist in both CND and the Committee of 100, who had led a Campaign Caravan around the country during 1962 and claimed previous knowledge of the RSG system, but who wasn't even on speaking terms with the Spies for Peace. The general public were completely bemused, going by a National Opinion Polls survey of Londoners published later in April 1963 — asked who they thought was to blame, 50 per cent said they didn't know, 1 per cent said the Committee of 100, 3 per cent the Civil Defence organisation, 4 per cent the Communists, 5 per cent CND, and 37 per cent the Government!

Speculation continued afterwards. Peace News drew attention to Beyond Counting Arses on 26 April. The Sunday Telegraph, which had good contacts with the security authorities and a good knowledge of the far left, suggested on 21 April that 'it would not be surprising if investigation does not bring to light a shrewd political mind directing this brilliant subversive operation’, and followed on 19 May with heavy hints about a 'master mind behind the Spies for Peace, a 'Jekyll and Hyde character' who was thought to be 'a brilliant man who may be doing an important job', and so on; it was easy to see what was behind this nonsense, but nothing came of it. The Conservative Party Campaign Guide for the 1964 General Election implicated the Independent Labour Party; it was actually involved only to the extent that it supported the Spies for Peace and that some of its members in London and Leeds produced reprints of the pamphlet. Herb Greer's unsympathetic early history of the movement—Mud Pie (1964)— carelessly asserted that the Spies for Peace were 'made up largely of Anarchists loosely attached to the Committee of 100'. Christopher Driver's sympathetic early history of the movement—The Disarmers (1964)—cautiously suggested that they 'might be found among the readers of the Trotskyist [sic] magazine Solidarity'. Richard Taylor's and Colin Pritchard's sympathetic later history—The Protest Makers (1980)—described them as a 'group of libertarian socialists and Anarchists', adding a note that 'it is clear that the group around the journal Solidarity was closely involved'. Paul Mercer's unsympathetic later history—‘Peace' of the Dead (1986)—alleged that 'it did not take Special Branch long to identify those responsible' and that 'it was an open secret within the Committee of 100' that some members of the Syndicalist Workers Federation were involved; the authorities were actually never able to establish who was responsible, and the two named people were involved only in producing reprints and had nothing to do with the original group (indeed the named source of this story wouldn't have been trusted by anyone).

The fact is that the identity of only one member of the group has ever been publicly admitted, though a great many outsiders have claimed membership at various times. At the beginning of 1965 there was much interest in the press and amusement in the movement about a man called Trevor Jones (‘Jonah'), who alleged that he was one of the Spies for Peace and had caused much disruption of official activity, but he was generally dismissed as a nuisance or a provocateur. And a much later example of confusion may be found in Alan Ryan's book Bertrand Russell: A Political Life (1988), which includes references to 'the activities of "Spiees for Peace" (who discovered where the government's wartime communications centres were located and published the information in defiance of the Official Secrets Act)', which isn't quite right, and to 'the government's efficient use of the Official Secrets Act to send the most determined Spies for Peace to jail for eighteen months', which is quite wrong. The essential point to emphasise is that, by taking simple precautions, the Spies for Peace made sure that there was no material evidence against anyone, so that no one was arrested, let alone imprisoned.

Effects and results

The original pamphlet, which appeared just before Easter 1963, was followed by a literally incalculable number of reprints and summaries produced by various groups and individuals over the Easter weekend and then during the next few weeks. There were certainly at least a hundred separate versions, most duplicated but a few surreptitiously printed. It was estimated that about 10,000 pamphlets and about 30,000 leaflets summarising the pamphlet had been distributed by the end of the March, on Easter Monday, and Vanessa Redgrave's speech at the closing rally in Hyde Park that afternoon repeated its main contents.

The largest known edition was a printed version which was produced in London on 22 April in a run of 18,000 copies. (This was one of several which expurgated the remarks about the Cuba crisis to say that ‘damn all' or 'nothing at all' was done.) One summary was distributed at the annual conference of the National Union of Students at Keele University during the weekend after Easter by Martin Loney, then a student leader (and later general secretary of the National Council for Civil Liberties and then an academic sociologist).

A particularly interesting version appeared in the French left-wing paper France Observateur on 18 April. The story filled the front and back pages, with the comment: 'Treason ceased to be treason when it became a public service. The boldness of the Spies for Peace has promoted the peace march from the level of British folklore into an event of international significance'; and the two middle pages were filled with facsimiles of the pamphlet. (The issue was banned in Britain.) Copies of the pamphlet soon travelled further afield, and by June versions were being produced as far apart as Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Also in June the London Committee of 100 began producing a series of duplicated editions which it sold at one shilling, and various other versions continued to appear for the rest of the year.

In exactly the same way, the demonstration at RSG-6 on 13 April was followed by demonstrations organised by local Nuclear Disarmament groups at almost every other known RSG in the country on almost every weekend during the next couple of months. As had been hoped, the Committee of 100 and indeed the radical wing of the movement in general took on a new lease of life.

All these events were reported in the press much more widely than had ever been hoped. No doubt this was partly because of their intrinsic interest; but it was much more because the press during that period bore a bitter grudge against the Government—following the imprisonment in February of two reporters for refusing to disclose (non-existent) sources of information for (imaginary) stories about the Vassall spy case to an official tribunal, and the denial in March by the Minister of War, John Profumo, of rumours about his relationship with Christine Keeler which everyone in Fleet Street knew to be true (the resulting sex-and-politics scandal revolving around Stephen Ward dominated the political scene for the rest of the summer). All the capitalist newspapers wanted the Spies for Peace to be caught and punished; but meanwhile they were delighted to be able to embarrass the Government from a new angle.

Despite specific police threats, detailed accounts of the pamphlets and the demonstrations appeared in some papers of the libertarian left. What was more surprising and significant was that, despite official and unofficial pressure and all the political implications, the Daily Telegraph finally broke ranks in the Establishment—by printing on 19 April what was alleged to be the transcript of a programme broadcast by Radio Prague the previous day, including substantial quotations from the Spies for Peace pamphlet. On the same day Private Eye published a full-page parody of the pamphlet—with the title 'Top Secret: Do not read this page' and spoof details of 'Holes in the Ground' (HIGs)—and on the next day the pamphlet was shown and discussed on the television programme That Was The Week That Was. And the case was used as the theme of an episode in the Granada Television serial The Odd Man (Edward Boyd's 'The Betrayal of Ambrose Leech'), broadcast on Independent Television on 17 May.

The Spies for Peace had entered the folklore of political culture—and not only in Britain. The pamphlets and demonstrations were praised by the Situationist movement on the Continent as an exemplary instance of the destruction of spectacle4 and creation of situations, made the subject of an art exhibition called 'The Destruction of the RSG-6' held in Odense, Denmark, during June and July 19635 , and held up as a model for further revolutionary action—which they were.


But the important thing was how the situation would develop in practice. Soon the ripples began to spread as the lessons sank in. The information about RSG-4, which had been sent to contacts in Cambridge, was published in a similar though much shorter pamphlet on 25 April. On 2 May a typed leaflet appeared stating that the communications system connecting the RSGs and the central Government was located in underground bunkers near Chancery Lane underground station in London, with surface entrances in Furnival Street and High Holborn. At the same time secret telephone numbers and addresses were being passed round by word of mouth, and for several weeks members of the Nuclear Disarmament movement used them to harass and, if possible, to disrupt the communications system.

One unfortunate episode occurred after the demonstration at RSG-12 in Dover Castle on 5 May. Local activists broke in to the site and discovered further secret papers about the RSG system. However, lacking confidence in their own ability to make use of the material and knowledge of who else might be able to do so, they handed the papers over to the secretary of the National Committee of 100 and the editor of Peace News—both of whom had expressed support for the Spies for Peace at Easter. But these two leading figures in the anti-war movement not only destroyed the material but even rebuked those responsible for this skilful and entirely successful action, so a valuable opportunity was wasted.

The Spies for Peace episode and work continued to be the subject of both private and public discussion during summer 1963. In June the text of Beyond Counting Arses was reprinted by Solidarity (Volume 2, Number 116 ) to provide documentation for this discussion. Also in June a pamphlet with the acronymic title Resistance Shall Grow7 was published by a coalition of groups in the libertarian left—the Independent Labour Party, the London Federation of Anarchists, Solidarity, the Syndicalist Workers Federation, and a section of the London Committee of 100—and was also included in Anarchy 29 as `The Spies for Peace Story. Subtitled 'The Story of the Spies for Peace and Why They are Important For Your Future', this compilation of anonymous articles described the events of Easter 1963 and the various repercussions, with particular attention to the reactions of the authorities, the media and the orthodox left, and with the hopeful conclusion that the episode might be 'the basis of a genuinely revolutionary mass movement'.

In September Nicolas Walter's The RSGs, 1919-19638 was published as Solidarity Pamphlet 15 to fill in the historical background of the emergency regional government system since the First World War (though he didn't go back as far as its slightly earlier origins during the First World War). One interesting point to emerge was that the revived RSG system had not only been fairly widely known for some time but had actually been discussed openly in the press on several occasions and described in some detail in the Daily Mail in February 1961; indeed Bertrand Russell himself had drawn attention to its significance (in a speech to the Midlands Conference for Peace in Birmingham on 11 March 1961, reprinted as the pamphlet Win We Must). By this time, the authorities, having failed to lay their hands on the Spies for Peace, drew a practical lesson from them instead, and also in September an official report on Civil Defence gave detailed information about the RSG system to the general public for the first time. Already the structure had been modified to provide for the likely dismemberment of the regions by nuclear attack and the establishment instead of Sub-Regional controls (as reported by Sanity in August), and soon the Civil Defence structure was completely dismantled, though a skeleton system survived. In a way, then, the Spies for Peace succeeded completely.

Revival and failure

But the Spies for Peace had aimed at something much more than merely discrediting or even destroying the Civil Defence system, and by the autumn of 1963 they resumed their work. The group had kept constantly in touch, and had also remained active in other ways. Members were among the representatives of the Nuclear Disarmament movement who confronted Bernard Levin with the pamphlet on That Was The Week That Was on 20 April, and among the hecklers at the public meeting organised by the London Region of CND on 28 April when leaders of the Nuclear Disarmament movement offered their belated approval to the Spies for Peace (and made an idiotic appeal to give themselves up!). Several members took part in the Committee of 100 demonstrations during the summer at Marham (in May) and Porton (in June), during Greek Week (in July) and the subsequent Committee convoy to Greece, as well as in the Cuban Embassy demonstration (in July) and the Notting Hill anti-eviction struggle (in August). But, when the London Committee once more relapsed into the same paralysis as had afflicted it before Easter, the group was re-formed at the end of August.

At this point two members dropped out of any further activity, and two new members were brought in to replace them. At various times during the following period other people took part in specific activities on a temporary basis, and there was a growing network of contacts in several parts of the country, but the hard core remained almost unchanged.

The aim of the Spies for Peace remained the same; but now their task was more difficult. It would not be sufficient to repeat their work; it was necessary to move forward and do better than before. They had discovered and exposed the emergency regional government system; now they set out to discover and expose the emergency central government system behind it. They had acquired the essential trust in each other and the basic expertise and experience for this kind of activity; but they were determined not to take any unnecessary risks, which limited their freedom of action. So once more they withdrew from other activities and resumed work.

The first area to be explored was the deep shelters in London which had been constructed during the Second World War. Papers found in Warren Row had shown that the RSG- system had not been activated during the Cuba crisis in October 1962, a few weeks after the Fallex 62 exercise which proved the uselessness of the whole system. The group decided to see what been done with the deep shelters, and they picked on the one near Belsize Park underground station as being the easiest to break into without risk of detection. The shelter was raided on 28 September 1963, and they discovered that it not only had been unused during the Cuba crisis but was unusable at any time, since its fittings were all either dismantled or derelict. But nothing much could be made of that on its own.

The next area to be explored was the enormous military complex near Corsham, just east of Bath on the main London-Bristol road and railway. Contacts at the CND annual conference in October reported local suspicions that this was the site of the emergency central seat of government, and this coincided with hints in the press that in a war the Government would go underground 'somewhere in the West'. The group decided to see what could be discovered. A preliminary visit was made in November, and two thorough searches were made during December. The whole area was combed, and several installations were broken into; but the group found it impossible to get far enough into the complex to confirm their strong suspicions about it without taking excessive risks, and the operation was temporarily suspended.

Instead the group turned to the London communications system near Chancery Lane underground station. Attempts were made to break into various places during January 1964, but again they found it impossible to penetrate the system without more drastic measures. At several meetings the group discussed—both alone and with sympathetic contacts—the possibility of cracking the system in other ways, whether by planning a public demonstration to draw attention to it and trying to get in during a diversion, or else by mounting a more determined assault altogether. But in the end it was decided to proceed no further because the operation seemed unlikely to succeed without taking unnecessary risks or using undesirable methods.

Another visit was made to the West Country in February, this time in the area of the Mendips, where other contacts had suggested the central seat of government might be located. A long search ended with the discovery of a mysterious site at Temple Cloud, but when this was raided it turned out to be only a Home Office Supply and Transport Store. A great deal of equipment was found in it, but no important papers. Yet another visit was made to the West Country in May, but again nothing was discovered.

By this time attention had been turned elsewhere, as a result of independent work by another group active in East London. In March 1964 the Ilford Civil Defence headquarters was broken into, and some of the papers found there were passed on to the Spies for Peace. References were found to a site near Kelvedon Hatch in Essex which sounded interesting. The site was located after a short search, and was broken into on 29 March, Easter Sunday, at the time of the Easter March. Kelvedon Hatch turned out to be an intriguing place, since it combined a Sub-Regional headquarters in the RSG system with a Group headquarters in the Royal Observer Corps system. A great deal of material was removed from the huge bunkers at Kelvedon Hatch, and much of it was found to be interesting; but most of it related to the ROC structure and its exercises, which were hardly worth the trouble of exposing.

One particularly significant item of information that did emerge was that the London Region, whose RSG was strangely missing from the material found in Warren Row, had apparently been eliminated from the system altogether, and divided up between the Eastern, Southern and South-Eastern regions, so that London was to be ruled by Regional Commissioners in Cambridge, Warren Row and Dover; the various sectors of the capital were to be administered from several Sub-Regional headquarters, of which Kelvedon Hatch was the one for East London north of the Thames. The implication was that in the event of nuclear war London would be virtually abandoned to its fate—but this was no news for anyone who had read the original Spies for Peace pamphlet, and again it was not worth the trouble of exposing on its own.

Further developments in East London put an end to work in that area. In May the Wanstead Civil Defence headquarters was broken into. In August three people were arrested and charged with the Ilford and Wanstead break-ins. There was some dramatic publicity for a time, with heavy hints about the identity of the Spies for Peace, but in the event the magistrates court proceedings were confined to events in East London and the wider implications were obscured. The defendants were given large fines, which were soon raised by sympathisers.

Another area again was Wales, where contacts pointed out suspicious sites in various parts of the country. Visits were made several times during the spring and summer of 1964, large areas were explored, and some sites were examined; but no hard information was ever obtained.

On 16 and 17 October 1964, during the weekend after General Election which brought the Labour Party back to power after thirteen years, two final visits were made to the Corsham complex, and the most determined efforts so far were made to break into appropriate sites. But yet again the task proved impossible, and the operation had to be terminated once and for all. This marked the end of the activity of the Spies for Peace as a group.

Scots Against War

During all this time a parallel but completely independent response to the situation in the Committee of 100 had taken place in Scotland. Some Glasgow activists who had attended the Way Ahead conference in February 1963 were impressed by the arguments of Beyond Counting Arses, and developed their ideas in a similar way.

The first public indication of this phenomenon was the appearance at the Holy Loch demonstration on 25 May 1963 of a duplicated leaflet called How to disrupt, obstruct and subvert the Warfare State, and signed `Scots Against War'. This was followed by an irregular series of publications over the next couple of years, aimed at stimulating radical activity in the Scottish Nuclear Disarmament movement.

This activity was not confined to argument, and sabotage became frequent and widespread from 1963 to 1966. Several fires were started at the Holy Loch and Faslane bases, and many Civil Defence and Army offices all over the country were broken into and wrecked. Occasionally some individuals were arrested, but the authorities generally preferred to keep things quiet. Few charges were brought, and only fines were ever imposed. The Scots Against War group was never broken, but in the end it faded away.

In June 1966 the Scottish Solidarity group published as its first pamphlet A Way Ahead9 , which was a collection of articles by and about the Scots Against War and the sabotage issue printed in both Scotland and London, with editorial comments. The subtitle was 'For a New Peace Movement', but the pamphlet actually marked the end of the old one. Nevertheless, the career of the Scots Against War, inspired by the same ideas as the Spies for Peace (and frequently in informal contact with them), may be seen as one of the most successful practical assaults on the military system mounted by the whole Nuclear Disarmament movement.

Last things

The individual Spies for Peace remained active after the end of their work as a group. During 1964 they had already joined the picnic at Warren Row on 16 August. Following the successful pirate radio broadcasts during the General Election of October 1964 in South London, they joined a new group of Radio Pirates which set out to combine old methods of gathering information with new methods of distributing it. But they left the group before its first (and last) broadcasts at Easter 1965. The theme of the messages was to be the secret Civil Defence plans for London, and some of the material accumulated by the Spies for Peace was used in preparing the texts. But the treatment was sensationalised and the organisational and technical defects of the group were such that it soon collapsed. Despite this failure to revive the work of the Voice of Nuclear Disarmament, the Spies for Peace joined the demonstration at the end of the 1965 Easter March called for by the broadcasts (whose texts were distributed in pamphlet form). This was at the Rotundas in Monck Street, Westminster, which were suspected of being the site of the London RSG (if any) or even of the emergency seat of government — and where there had also been a demonstration at the end of the Easter March in 1964.

After this the individual members of the group were involved in several appropriate activities. Some helped to produce the fake American dollars bearing slogans against the Vietnam War during 1966 and 1967. Several took part in the Brighton Church demonstration in October 1966. Contacts were involved in the springing of George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs in October 1966. Several took part in the Greek Embassy demonstration in April 1967. Some joined the Committee of 100 demonstrations at the Corsham complex during 1967. And several were involved in the housing struggles which became the Squatters movement in 1969.

At one stage tenuous connections were made with a new tendency on the libertarian left. One of the contacts of the Spies for Peace, who had been prominent in the Radio Pirates, was involved in an attempt to fire a harmless rocket at the Greek Embassy in 1967; the attempt was a fiasco, but also a portent of things to come. And after the first shooting at the American Embassy in August 1967, the police raids of Committee of 100 militants involved a few members of the Spies for Peace. None of the group was in fact involved in the later developments culminating in 1970-1971 in the Angry Brigade, but these connections were not entirely coincidental.

In 1968 some of the Spies for Peace joined the Aldermaston March on the Easter Saturday to take part in a YCND demonstration at Warren Row. This commemorated their success five years earlier; but it also marked their failure to achieve any further success, and indeed the failure of the first Nuclear Disarmament movement as a whole—for that was the last of the first series of Aldermaston Marches, and 1968 also saw the disbandment of the Committee of 100 and its replacement as the vanguard of the radical left by the new student movement and the campaign against the Vietnam War. Some of the Spies for Peace continued political activity for many years, and a few were involved in the revived Nuclear Disarmament movement of the 1980s, but by that time they had long ceased to have any corporate existence.


One of the main successes of the Spies for Peace was the complete absorption into the public consciousness of the information they revealed. This was shown in 1965 when Peter Watkins made The War Game, a television film about the effects of a nuclear war which turned out to be so convincing that the authorities put pressure on the BBC not to broadcast it. Its picture of the political system which would be operated during a nuclear war took for granted the RSG system described by the Spies for Peace, although this had actually been radically altered by then. (It was shown in cinemas at the time and then to peace groups all over the country for twenty years, until it was at last broadcast in July 1985.)

Another success was the general assumption that further information of the same kind should be distributed as widely as possible, and quite soon this began to happen quite openly. Peter Laurie wrote a long article on the emergency government system in the Sunday Times Magazine (10 December 1967), and then expanded it into a frequently revised book, Beneath the City Streets (1970, 1972, 1979, 1983). Further information appeared in Tony Bunyan's book, The Political Police in Britain (1976, 1977), and also in several pamphlets—such as London: The Other Underground (1974) by 'Anarchists Anonymous, Region 1 (1978) by Martin Spence, and Review of Security and the State (1979) by 'State Research'.

During the following decade the field was taken over by Duncan Campbell. He first became well known as one of the three defendants in the ABC trial of 1977-1978 (which concerned the SIGINT system), who were found guilty of breaches of the Official Secrets Act but were neither fined nor imprisoned. He then turned to the emergency government system. Articles in Time Out (21/27 March 1980) and the New Statesman (2 October 1981) were followed by a 500-page book, War Plan UK (1982, 1983). This is a very detailed study of 'The Truth About Civil Defence in Britain' from the beginnings of the system during the First World War up to its reorganisation during the 1970s and the exercises testing it during the early 1980s. Campbell was able not only to work (almost) completely in the open, but also to use the work of a great many other people (including some of the Spies for Peace). He later produced another book, The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier (1984, 1986), a similarly detailed account of 'American Military Power in Britain’. His work may be said to have completed that begun by the Spies for Peace after a quarter of a century, so that the British people now have all the necessary information about their fate at the hands of the state in a military—or civil—emergency.


All accounts of the Spies for Peace by outsiders have been vitiated by lack of knowledge of what really happened. The only previous accounts based on such knowledge were articles published in the Guardian (9 April 1966)—and reprinted as a leaflet, The Spies for Peace: Their Story Told at Last—and in Inside Story 810 and 9 (March/April and May/June 1973), of which the present account is a revised and expanded version.

NB: Footnotes added by Libcom.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3The Broadsheet King - The RSG song book: a handful of songs (1963)
  • 4“In Britain, the revolt of youth found its first expression in the peace movement. It was never a whole-hearted struggle, with the misty non-violence of the Committee of 100 as its most daring program, At its strongest the Committee could call 300,000 demonstrators on to the streets, It had its finest hour in Spring 1963 with the "Spies for Peace" scandal. But it had already entered on a definitive decline: for want of a theory the unilateralists fell among the traditional Left or were recuperated by the Pacifist conscience.” – On The Poverty Of Student Life (1966)
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10



The Raven #06 1988

Issue of The Raven from October 1988. As always with The Raven, we do not agree with all of it but reproduce it for reference. The article on anarchism and the selfish gene by the cretinous Peter Gibson is particularly terrible in this issue.

Submitted by Steven. on July 8, 2013


  • Editorial - 97
  • Illustrations for Kenneth Rexroth's Bestiary - Clifford Harper - 99
  • Tradition and revolution - George Woodcock - 103
  • The mystery of Dr Nathan-Ganz - Heiner Becker - 118
  • Architecture for all - Brian Richardson - 146
  • A conversation with Nellie Dick - John Pether - 155
  • Anarchism and the selfish gene - Peter Gibson - 167
  • Carlo Cafiero on action and communism - Nicolas Walter - 174
  • Review: Questioning technology - Denis Pym - 187
  • Illustrations between pages 129 and 136


Raven-06.pdf (4.5 MB)


The Raven #07 1989

Cover of The Raven issue 7 1989 showing the contents and a Kenneth Rexroth poem "The Scarecrow" illustrated by Clifford Harper

July 1989 issue of The Raven, including Colin Ward on (un)employment in the UK and Italy, Kropotkin as a historian of the French revolution, the Marquis de Sade, Nicolas Walter on Emma Goldman.

As ever, the contents of this issue are of variable quality and usefulness.


  • Illustrations from Kenneth Rexroth's Bestiary - Clifford Harper
  • A Few Italian Lessons - Colin Ward
  • Segmental Acephalous Network Systems - Harold Barclay
  • Kropotkin as Historian of the French Revolution - Heiner Becker
  • Emma Goldman's Disillusionment in Russia - Nicolas Walter
  • Sade and Sadism - Jean Raison [pseudonym of Nicolas Walter]1
  • Review of Joan Halperin's Félix Fénéon: Aesthete and Anarchist in Fin de Siècle Paris - George Woodcock
  • Review of Peter Marshall's William Blake: Visionary Anarchist - Peter Cadogan
  • Review of John Clark's The Anarchist Moment - Brian Morris
  • Anarchism and Nature 1 - Michael Duane
  • Anarchism and Nature 2 - David Morland


raven7.pdf (10.59 MB)


The Raven #08: On Revolution

A black flag against a sky: woodcut by Falke from Crapouillot (Paris) special number on "l'anarchie” January 1938.

An issue of this anarchist journal published by Freedom Press, from October 1989.

Submitted by Fozzie on December 17, 2022


  • Editorial
  • The Anarchist Revolution - Errico Malatesta
  • The Method of Revolution - Herbert Read and Theodore Michelson
  • Reflections on the French Revolution - Peter Kropotkin
  • Dormant Seeds of 1848 - John Hewetson
  • Opposing Conceptions of the Social Revolution in 1917 - Voline
  • The Kronstadt Revolt - Anton Ciliga
  • The Rehabilitation of Mexico - Alexander Skirda
  • The Occupation of the Factories in Italy in 1920 - Errico Malatesta
  • The Wilhelmshaven Revolt - Ernst Schneider
  • CNT-FAI-FIJ LNational Committee: Three Years of Struggle in Spain 1933-1939 - The Libertarian Movement
  • Peasants Revolt in Italy (1949) - Freedom
  • Protestors Storm the Bastille (1989) - The Guardian
  • No More Illusions - Reginald Reynolds
  • Further reading On Revolution

PDF courtesy of Sparrows Nest Archive, Nottingham.



The Raven #09 1990

Front cover of the Raven #9 with a black and white illustration of a bird and a list of the contributors

Ninth issue of The Raven from January 1990. Contents of variable quality and usefulness.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 10, 2022


  • Editorial
  • Mikhail Bakunin and the National Question - Serge Sipko
  • Has Anarcho-Communism Failed? - Laslo Sekelj
  • Architecture: Making Nowhere Somewhere - Colin Ward
  • Sociobiology: An Alternative View - Brian Morris
  • Anarchism and Human Nature - Don Alexander
  • Feminism, Anarchism and Ecology: Some Connections - Nickie Hallam & David Potter
  • Male/Female Relations and the anthropological record - Harold Barclay
  • C.W. Daniel: The odd man - Nicolas Walter
  • A challenge to accepted fictions - Andrew Hedgecock (reviews of recent Freedom Press publicartions)


raven9-final.pdf (6.72 MB)


The Raven #10: On Education

Raven 10 cover featuring an illustration by John Watson showing some angry letter "R"s attacking a child.

An issue of the Raven journal dedicated to education. Published in 1990.

As usual, contents of variable quality.


  • Editorial
  • The Authoritarian Tradition in British Education - John Shotton
  • Kropotkin and Technical Education: an anarchist voice - Michael Smith
  • Education vs Schooling: The Case for Home Learning - Zoe Korycinska
  • No Dead Poet's Society Here - Paule Pym
  • Education or Processing - Lyn Olson
  • Intellectuals and the Industrialisation of Education - John R. Doheny
  • Four Easy Pieces and One Hard One - Colin Ward
  • Comment on The Raven 9 - Nicolas Walter
  • The Ending Century - Prospect and Retrospect - George Woodcock



The Raven #11: On Class

Cover of Raven 11: On Class featuring an illustration by Roberto Ambrosoli showing a cartoon cloaked anarchist tilting a "pyramid" of different classes

A generally poor edition of The Raven from July 1990. The article by Tom Jennings is good, as are the historical pieces by Gary Pattison and R.W. Jones. The rest is reproduced for reference only.


  • Editorial
  • Class, Power, and Class Consciousness - Johnny Yen
  • Politics and the Class Struggle in the 1990s: Libertarian Theory - Tom Jennings
  • Worker Worship - Camillo Berneri
  • Class Politics: an exhausted myth - George Woodcock
  • Class - Peter Neville
  • Myself and the Working Class - Donald Rooum
  • Anarchist Influences in the Durham Coalfield before 1914 - Gary Pattison
  • Anti-Parliamentism and Communism in Britain 1917-1921 - R.W. Jones
  • Social Thought and Ideology - Johnny Yen
  • The Future (and past) of Anarcho-Communism: A Comment - Keith Flett




2 years 2 months ago

Submitted by Fozzie on April 30, 2022

"the self-taught ceases to be one of kind as soon as he succeeds in forming for himself a real culture. But in those circumstances his culture is no longer working class. A cultivated worker like Rudolf Rocker is like a black brought to Europe as a baby and bred by a cultivated family or college. The origin, like the skin colour, doesn't count. No-one would see in Rocker the former saddler. [...] So-called working class culture is, in short, a parasitic symbiosis of real culture, which is still bourgeois or half-bourgeois."

Perhaps forgiveable for Berneri to write this in the 1930s. Pretty weird for Freedom to republish it in 1990 with the barest of disclaimers in the editorial.

The Raven #12: On Communication

October/December 1990 issue of The Raven anarchist journal.

Submitted by Working Class … on December 11, 2021


  • Editorial
  • Tips on writing news reports - Dirk Spig
  • Communication - Michael Douane
  • Art as a weapon 1: Frans Seiwert and the Cologne Progressives - Martyn Everett
  • Communication by a tabloid journalist - Joe Kelly
  • Notes of an anarchist columnist - Colin Ward
  • The use of cartoons in anarchist propaganda - Donald Rooum
  • Cartoonists in Freedom
  • Class and the communication of anarchism - Johnny Yen
  • George Barrett's answers - Colin Ward
  • George Barrett: a biographical note - S E Parker
  • Objections on anarchism - George Barrett
  • Challenging the New Church - Andrew Hedgecock
  • Discussion notes on communicaton - Freedom Press

Cover illustration - Philip Sansom at Speakers’ Corner in the 1950s, drawn by Donald Rooum.


TheRaven-12.pdf (5.7 MB)



2 years ago

Submitted by Fozzie on July 2, 2022

PDF added.

Art as a weapon: Franz Seiwert and the Cologne progressives - Martyn Everett

Fig 1.  Hans Schmitz  -  Mass
Fig 1. Hans Schmitz - Mass

An account of Franz Seiwert and the 'Cologne Progressives', a group or circle of artists who followed and participated in the radical currents around the German council communist organisations AAU and especially the AAU-E. The 'Cologne Progressives' may be the most radical group of artists ever.

Submitted by Steven. on November 8, 2010

Art has a long history of use as a propaganda weapon by the powerful, who have patronised particular forms of art and particular artists as a means of enhancing or glorifying their own position. The icon-like portraits of Queen Elizabeth I provide an obvious example, as artists were forbidden to paint other than an officially approved likeness. More recently, the harnessing of art to commodity production - to sell products and create a particular, favourable image of the multi-national corporation is a phenomenon we are all familiar with. Occasionally, however, attempts have been made to transform art into a political weapon; to use it as a means of overthrowing a cruel and unjust social system.

In order to achieve this, artists have had to periodically rethink the whole nature and language of art so that they could challenge the state and the dominant cultural values that underpin both state and economy. This is why new cultural avant-gardes have frequently been linked to anarchism or socialism, their radical politics informing their radical artistic stance. The post-Impressionists and the Surrealists provide ready examples. Attempts to construct a politically engaged art have usually been most successful during times of political ferment, when the culture of the ruling class is already under siege, as during the post First World War Weimar Republic (1918-1933) when Germany was deeply divided and torn by armed conflict.

Art historians have tended to focus mainly on the Expressionist movement and Dada during this period, overlooking the work of the political constructivists, the `Cologne Progressives', a movement which grew out of Expressionism and Dada, and was a contemporary of both. As with Expressionism and Dada the Cologne Progressives were heavily influenced by anarchism, and many of the political constructivists contributed to a range of anarchist and socialist publications.

The Cologne Progressives were a loose grouping of artists initially centred on Cologne and Dusseldorf, which for the last years of its existence produced the radical art magazine A bis Z (1929-1933). Its aims and ideals were, however, shared by artists from elsewhere, and the group eventually included members in Prague, Moscow, Vienna, Amsterdam and Paris. The members of the Progressives all saw their primary purpose as developing visual weapons for the political and social struggle of an oppressed working class against the rich and powerful. They sought to express complex political ideas in simple visual terms, exposing not the nature of the capitalist system, but its causes, and suggesting revolutionary solutions.

Frans Seiwert, Heinrich Hoerle and Gerd Arntz, the principle members of this group were barely in their twenties when the war came to an end, and although they had already taken part in the anti-war movement, their period of major creativity only began with the Weimar years. They were among the most radical of the politically active artists of the time, identifying principally with the council communist organisation the Allgemeine Arbeiter Union, although they also had connections with the anarcho-syndicalist FAUD, the KAPD (Communist Workers Party) and the KPD (Communist Party). They were also active contributors to the journal Die Aktion, edited by the anarchist Franz Pfemfert, for which they provided title-page illustrations, and articles. Their artistic influence lay in Expressionism and in the early religious art of their area. As Gerd Arntz subsequently wrote about Seiwert:

He was very strong in his primitivism as the early Christians (ie Rhenish Primitives). We all came from the old paintings and the early woodcuts.

In fact Seiwert was originally a Catholic, who broke with the Church for its failure to condemn the horrors of World War I.
Fig 2. Franz Seiwert - Solidarity

Although they displayed artistic links with the Dutch De Stijl, and with Russian Constructivism and Suprematism, the work of the Progressives differed from these movements in two ways; it was overtly political in its content, and it was almost exclusively representational and so retained an easy intelligibility - important because their art was not produced for the gallery, the art critic or other artists, but for ordinary people. The subject matter of their art, and the form in which it was executed was largely determined by their political beliefs. They also sought to break down the cultural exclusivity of art, by using an artistic language that could be easily understood, and which was widely disseminated in a form suited to the mass society created by capitalism. So they frequently utilised the woodcut or the linocut, which could be readily reproduced in the papers like Die Aktion and Der Ziegelbrenner.
The political constructivists were anxious to de-individualise art, and tended to concentrate in their work on groups and classes, and not on individual characters. Individuals are represented only to emphasise their powerlessness, or their subject position, concepts such as solidarity by grouping people together. (see figs 1 and 2) Figures were schematised to the point where they became completely anonymous - as anonymous and de-individualised as capitalism made them. This transformation of form was just as important as the transformation of content. Seiwert, who was the main theoretician of the Progressives, wanted to create a new art of the working class which would not just come from putting a proletarian prefix to bourgeois styles. Consequently the Progressives were determined to develop a new style which involved a rejection of gallery art:

If one correctly conceives labour as the maintenance of life of the individual and of the whole, then art is nothing other than the visualisation of the organisation of labour and of life. Panel painting, which was created not accidentally, but from an inner necessity coinciding with the rise of modern Capitalism, becomes inconceivable. Anyway, an individual work of art as confirmation of an egocentric type of person on the one hand, and, on the other, in the hands of its owner, as confirmation of his title as possessor, will no longer be possible. (Seiwert A bis Z 1932)

Rejection of panel, or easel painting, was also clearly seen in Seiwert's response to Kokoschka. During street-fighting in Dresden during the right-wing Kapp Putsch, a shot fired by defending workers damaged Rubens' painting Bathsheba. Ignoring the casualties (35 were killed and 151 wounded in the fighting) Kokoschka distributed a leaflet to defend the Rubens, beseeching the workers to fight elsewhere, because `the saving of such elevating works of art was in the end much greater than any political action'. Seiwert's response was immediate. Rubens' art had long been dead, he wrote, `For a few hundred years we have had enormous holes in gigantic frames'. Such art paralysed the will of the present generation: `it weighs heavily on us and prevents us from acting'.

Seiwert's involvement with a number of anti-war groups during World War 1 was crucial in determining the later development of the Progressives. Franz Pfemfert, the editor of Die Aktion had achieved a remarkable fusion of art and politics in his determination to create a mass-circulation anti-war paper, and this combination was carried across into the work of the Progressives, who saw little difference between their art and their political activity. Indeed, the political trajectory of the Progressives paralleled that of Pfemfert and Die Aktion, as he moved from anarchism to council communism. Hoerle and Seiwert continued to contribute to Die Aktion up until their deaths. (see fig. 3)

Fig 3. Heinrich Hoerle - Cover for Die Aktion

Seiwert and Hoerle were close friends of Ret Marut, the editor of Der Ziegelbrenner, the fiery, clandestine anarchist magazine and some of Seiwert's first published graphics appeared in Der Ziegelbrenner.
Marut had been an active participant in the Munich `soviet' of 1919, and had narrowly escaped the firing squad after the soviet's collapse. While he was in hiding from the counter-revolutionary death squads, Seiwert and several of the other `Progressives' notably Hoerle, Freundlich and Hans Schmitz, helped with the production and distribution of the paper. Marut fled Germany for Mexico, where he became famous as the writer B. Traven. In order to protect his real identity he severed nearly all his contacts, the sole exception being Seiwert. Apart from the illustrations for Der Ziegelbrenner, Seiwert also drew a sketch of Marut, and painted his portrait. (fig. 4)
Fig 4. Franz Seiwert - Ret Marut

Seiwert's contribution to the socialist and anarchist press also included many articles about the social role of art, commentary on the events of the time, and on anarchist themes, notably on the differences between authoritarian and anti-authoritarian communism, identifying himself with the latter. He also wrote an article on the anarchist writer Erich Muhsam, and with the French author Tristan Remy co-authored Erich Muhsam: Choix de Poesie (Lyon, 1924) which included an essay by him entitled Erich Muhsam: the militant.
Seiwert's most significant achievement was to co-edit, with fellow-artist Hoerle and Walter Stern thirty issues of the paper A bis Z, between October 1929 and January 1933. The first issue featured the work of fellow Progressives on the cover: a painting by Hoerle, another / by the Polish artist Jankel Adler, who later fled to Britain, and became involved with the group around War Commentary l Freedom, a connection for which the British government refused his application for citizenship. A sculpture by Otto Freundlich was also illustrated.

Freundlich had been connected with Seiwert since 1918 when they were both involved in working with the circle around Die Aktion: They had subsequently participated in the Congress of the Union of. Progressive International Artists held in Dusseldorf in May 1922. Members of the Berlin `Kommune' group, which included Freundlich, Raoul Hausmann, Adler, Stanislav Kubicki and Malgorzata Kubicka, launched a fierce attack in the plenary session against art dealers, and against some artists who had supported the War. Seiwert and Gert Wollheim (another artist with anarchist sympathies) supported the attack by the `Kommune' group. Freundlich's sculpture was singled out for criticism by the Nazis after they gained power and the catalogue for the Nazi exhibition of so-called `degenerate art' Entarte Kunst, featured one of Freundlich's sculptures on the catalogue cover. Freundlich himself died in a Nazi concentration camp during the war.

Each issue of A bis Z reproduced the artistic work of the Progressives, or introduced readers to the various traditions that had influenced them: religious art, cave paintings and so on. The example of Pfemfert's Die Aktion was not lost, and writings on the social role of art appeared alongside extracts from Bakunin's writings, short reviews of books written by Mfhsam and Alexander Berkman and articles on the theory of council communism. Raoul Hausmann, a pioneer of Berlin Dada in the magazine Die Freie Strasse, and an early exponent of photomontage, contributed articles on film and photomontage (Hausmann had previously contributed articles to the anarchist Die Erde and the Stirnerite Der Einzige) and the Hungarian Moholy-Nagy wrote about art and photography.

Artists who became identified with the `Progressives' through A bis Z included Auguste Herbin (Paris), Wladimir Krinski (Moscow), Peter Alma (Amsterdam), August Tschinkel (Prague) and the photographer August Sander (Cologne) whose work was regularly featured in the magazine, as well as Schmitz, Hoerle, Arntz and Freundlich. During its first year of existence A bis Z was distributed to contacts in Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Holland, Belgium, France, USA, Mexico, India and Palestine.

The common factor uniting these artists was the way in which their art became an extension of their political activities. They were populist in their aims seeking to break down art's exclusiveness and develop new forms for art in order to facilitate communication of their ideas. They tried to develop a simple pictorial language which, they hoped, would be understood by the workers to whom their art was directed. This led some of the Progressives, like Gerd Arntz, an art teacher who became head of the Graphics Department of the Vienna Wirtschafts and Gesellschaftsmuseum to develop the Vienna method of pictorial statistics (isotypes) originally formulated by Otto Neurath. Arntz's art became almost diagrammatic and his work on isotypes involved him in the production of a pictorial atlas in collaboration with Tschinkel and Alma.

Rather than caricature the class enemy, Arntz and the Progessives attempted to visualize the social relationships which gave the ruling class their power. Arntz explained his work like this:

Grosz . . . draws the capitalist as an ugly and fat criminal. I did things differently. He can be good-looking, a decent family man with beautiful daughters ... I sought to show the position of the capitalist in the system of production - for that they need not be as ugly as Grosz made them.

and while Grosz showed the worker as a creature of misery, Arntz rejects this view:

We too show hits as miserable because he was a product of miserable circumstances. But with us he was also a revolutionary who tackled things. Our art was to make a contribution to tearing the old society apart. It was propaganda, it attempted to reveal social contrasts and show social opportunities, not just moralising criticism.

Arntz frequently split his pictures into various levels in order to contrast the superficial appearance of the social order with the way things really worked. So above ground the boss canoodles with a whore in a car while below the miners work and die. In Barracks (1927) while the soldiers parade in dress uniform, in the basement beneath them, a man is shot by a firing squad, his head depicted as a rifle-range target. Although Arntz divides some pictures in an obvious way, utilising a natural division between different floors in a building, the picture is sometimes broken in a more sophisticated way, by the beam of a searchlight, or the contrast between light and shadow. (fig. 5)

Fig 5. Gerd Arntz - War

The use of contrasting areas of solid blacks and whites was a feature of the work of many of the artists grouped around A bis Z, partly because the technique lent itself easily to printed reproduction, and the widespread dissemination of images, partly because the use of solid geometrical areas of black emphasised the feeling of oppression by the industrial system. They saw society as deeply divided, polarised into right and left wing camps, and the use of black and white gave visual expression to that social polarisation.

Fig 6. Hans Schmitz - Workers' Walk

Hans Schmitz also utilised this contrast between black and white: the prison-like qualities of the factory are clearly expressed in Workers' Walk (1922) (fig. 6) its echoes of Van Gogh's La Ronde des Prisonniers reinforced by the heavy, oppressive dominance of the black walls.

Schmitz's studies were interrupted by his conscription into the army. With the revolution at the end of the War, he became a member of the Soldiers' Council in Cologne, and joined the Spartacus League, the left-wing break-away from the Social Democrats, led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht which subsequently formed the nucleus of the Communist Party. After resuming his studies in Dusseldorf, he met Seiwert, and helped with the distribution of Der Ziegelbrenner, beginning a period of close co-operation with the Progessives which continued until 1933. In 1922 he was a delegate at an anarchist Congress in Berlin. The Nazi rise to power resulted in a break in his work, and much of his output was destroyed during the air-raids of the Second World War.

Figur 7. Hans Schmitz - Workers' Training

His surviving linocuts depict the dehumanised nature of the industrial system, with a physical environment that dominates the individual, rendering the worker an extension of the machine (see fig. 7)

Like the other Progessives Schmitz undertook solidarity work with the Communist International Workers Aid Committee, but as a rule the Progressives kept apart from the Communist Party, and the ASSO, the communist dominated Association of Revolutionary Artists. Seiwert explained the differences between them:

Just because its contents have a tendency to be 'proletarian', making statements about the struggle, solidarity, and class consciousness of the proletariat, bourgeois art has not by any means as yet become proletarian art. Form must be made subservient to content: content must recast form to become content. The work where this happens is created out of the collective consciousness where the self which creates a work is no longer bourgeois individualistic isolation, but a tool of the collective consciousness ... To maintain that when the content of a bourgeois art form makes a statement about proletarian problems this was proletarian art, seems to me a wholly Social-Democratic attitude, and in this context 'Social Democrats' includes those who are members of the Communist Party.

Seiwert then extends this critique into a more general attack on Communist methods:

It is exactly the same attitude which believes that the means of production, in the Capitalist sense, can be redirected from the control of those above to those below in a more far-reaching way than by the regulation of the means of production in a Communist society; the same attitude which believes in taking bourgeois technology from bourgeois industry and using it, in the hope that science developed in the service of the bourgeoisie can contain pure, independent, objective truth and, taken out of the hands of the bourgeoisie, can become science for the proletariat. Yes - science for the proletariat, so that it can remain the proletariat, but no means by which the proletariat can rise up and free itself.
A Communist society, and with it Communist culture, cannot be created by taking over the positions of Capitalist society and of bourgeois culture. Proletarian art exists when its form is the expression of the organisation of the feeling of solidarity, and of the class consciousness of the masses . . .

This statement, in spite of the terminology, encapsulates the anarchist rejection of authoritarian communist attempts to seize and use the state to direct a revolution, and reformulates it in terms of science, technology and culture.

In order to attack capitalist industrialism more effectively Seiwert resorted to a highly stylised representation, and the development of a simple pictorial language, which dialectically conceived, symbolised the opposing forces of capitalism and communism. A chimney, transmission belts, furnace, factory chimney and so on, stood for the inhuman aspects of industrialisation, whilst the sun, stars and trees have a positive value, pointing towards a better, socialist future. They can also have a negative significance, a crossed-out sun would strengthen the evil impression of the industrial scene. People are frequently depicted as being shaped or controlled by the system, and in many of Seiwert's linocuts a person's head is linked to the factory transmission belts to indicate that under capitalism the worker is only a part of the production process. (fig. 8)

Fig 8. Franz Seiwert - Factory

Sometimes Seiwert's work was directly in a more political tradition, such as his icon-like portraits of Karl Leibknecht, and the anarchist-socialist Gustav Landauer. (fig. 9) Like Leibknecht, Landauer was murdered by reactionaries during the Revolution of 1918/19. Their portraits were among several of socialist martyrs produced in a small pamphlet Lebendige, by Peter Abelen, Anton Räderschneidt, Seiwert, and Angelika Hoerle, who died of tuberculosis when still only 24.

Fig 9. Franz Seiwert - Gustav Landauer

Seiwert also produced a remarkable linocut poster, commemorating the full horror of the execution of the Chicago anarchists in minimalist terms. (fig. 10)

Fig 10. Franz Seiwert - Chicago 1877

The rise of fascism, and the subsequent war destroyed the group, although Seiwert died early in 1933, of an X-ray burn sustained at the age of 7, and which he suffered from all his life. His death came just before the Nazis could destroy his work, and in all probability, the artist himself.

Seiwert and the Progressives tried to wrench art from its uneasy position as a commodity, and transform it into a weapon for communicating revolutionary ideas and ideals. In their attempt they have left us with an inspiring legacy of political images, a coherent, libertarian socialist theory of art, and a practical example of immense personal courage in the face of reaction.

Originally published in The Raven no. 12, October/December 1990. Taken from


Red Marriott

13 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Red Marriott on November 8, 2010

Missing Landauer pic added.


13 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on November 9, 2010

amazing, thank you!


13 years 8 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Entdinglichung on November 9, 2010

the legendary statistical atlas on society and economy (1930) by Gerd Arntz and Otto Neurath can be downloaded as a pdf here: (14.5 mb)

The Raven #13: Anarchists in Eastern Europe

Cover of The Raven issue 13 with an illustration by Clifford Harper showing a man with a black flag on horseback

An issue of The Raven from January 1991 including articles on Anarchists in Eastern Europe, Nestor Makhno and anarchism in Ukraine, Chomsky's anarchism and a reprint of a letter from David Koven.


  • Editorial
  • Introduction - Andrew Hedgecock
  • East: a freedom workshop
  • Nestor Makhno: a mini historiography of the anarchist movement in Ukraine 1917-1921
  • Letter to an Old Friend - David Koven
  • Chomsky's anarchism - Peter Marshall
  • Comments on The Raven 12 "On Communication"

Cover illustration by Clifford Harper, from Anarchy: a graphic guide.


TheRaven13.pdf (5.5 MB)


The Raven #14: On Voting

Cover of Raven 14 is an illustration by Rufus Segar from 1964 showing a two fingers up gesture with the slogan "why I won't vote"

An issue of the anarchist journal The Raven from 1991 with articles on voting in elections - and being against that.

Submitted by Fozzie on May 28, 2022


  • Editorial
  • Freedom to vote? Freedom from voting? - Peter Cadogan
  • The green dilemma - Brian Leslie (UK Green Party)
  • To vote or not to vote? - Michael Duane
  • Election tactics - Jonathan Simcock
  • The exercise of real power - Zeb Korycinska
  • Compulsory Voting: a useful target for anti-state action? - Brian Martin (Australia)
  • Democracy destroyed by its very institutions: the example of Switzerland - Marianne Enckel and Phillippe Tonnelier
  • The 'purists', the 'realists' and the straightjacket: Emma Goldman, the Spanish Anarchists and the February Elections, 1936 - Tony Powell
  • Revolutionary Government - Peter Kropotkin
  • Anarchists and voting - Freedom (Three editorials from 1964)
  • Comments on The Raven 12: On Communication

Cover illustration by Rufus Seagar from Anarchy 37, March 1964.



The Raven #15: On Health

Black and white figure holding a "Health For All!" placard in one hand with a stack of £20 notes in the other. The figure is surrounded by various other figures and logos associated with health.

1991 issue of the anarchist journal The Raven published by Freedom Press. Including various articles on health.

Submitted by Fozzie on June 3, 2022


  • Introduction - Silvia Edwards
  • Shifting models in the NHS - Simon Kinsey
  • Are you normal? God help us! - Jim Brown
  • Watching and listening: a paediatrician's career 1944-86 - Jenny Corbett
  • Health warning - Tom Smythe
  • In the belly of the NHS - Katy Andrews
  • Song: Weary mercy - Caroline Hodgson
  • Towards human ecology - M. Boustred
  • Does childhood matter? - Clio Bellenis
  • The satanic child abuse epidemic: 1990-1991 - Donald Rooum
  • Do GPs take the sexuality of older people seriously? - H.B. Gibson
  • Crippen wasn't all bad - Arthur Moyse
  • Mental health and society: empirical and theoretical approaches - Johnny Yen
  • Healthy beliefs - F.A. Jenner
  • Improving standards. Whose? - Judy Beer
  • Alternative therapy - Tony Gibson
  • Cartoon by Donald Rooum
  • Well oiled - Mick Kidd
  • Abolition of ill health - John Hewetson
  • A GP's report - Dr M. Greet
  • Book review - Some Lives by David Widgery - Adrian Walker
  • Editor's notes

Cover illustration: collage by Silvia Edwards


Raven15.pdf (5.86 MB)


The Raven #16: On Education (2)

A cute cartoon of a  seated kid with the top of his head opened to reveal some flowers growing. He is watering the flowers from a wartering can

The second Education-themed edition of this anarchist journal published by Freedom Press in 1991.

Submitted by Fozzie on December 21, 2022


  • The seeds of its own destruction - Michael Duane
  • Our responsibility for the future of higher education - John A Schumacher
  • The axe, the chainsaw, and education - Denis Pym
  • Nurturing the radical spirit - Gaetano Piluso
  • Sexual freebom at all ages - Tony Gibson
  • The new superpower - Amorey Gethin
  • Delinquency - Alex Comfort
  • Kropotkin, mutual aid, and selfish genes - Peter Gibson
  • Adrift in the lanb of patriots - David Koven
  • Editor’s notes

cover illustration by Donald Rooum

PDF courtesy of Sparrows Nest Archive, Nottingham.


TheRaven16.pdf (30.49 MB)


The Raven #17: Use of land

Issue of The Raven journal about the use of land in capitalist society. Reproduced for reference.


  • Editorial
  • Property Expropriation: The Anarchist Approach - Graeme Nicholson
  • The Garden of Cocagne - Marianne Enckell
  • Coming Back to Earth - Maureen Boustred
  • Whiteway Colony - Tom Keell Wolfe
  • Communismo Libertario and Communalism in the Spanish Collectivsations (1936-1939) - Yaacov Oved
  • An Editorial Afterword
  • To make that future now - Keith Flett
  • Green Politics or party politiking: A view from Australia - Graham Purchase
  • The Right to Roam - Harold Sculthorpe
  • A journey though contemporary land use - Jonathan Simcock
  • Green Anarchism - Richard Harris
  • The Highland Land War - Stephen Cullen
  • Nature Conservation as a Land Use - Bev Nichols
  • Colonising Land: Utopian Ventures - Colin Ward
  • A letter from Harold Barclay


Raven-17.pdf (4.48 MB)


The Raven #18: Anthropology Anarchism and Africa

An uncredited black and white illustration of a small mud walled hut with a straw roof

An issue of the anarchist journal The Raven from 1992 with articles on anthropology and Africa. Contents of mixed quality and usefulness. Reproduced for reference.


  • Introduction - John Pilgrim
  • Anarchy in Milton Keynes - Colin Ward
  • Anarchism and the epigenetics of politics - Peter Gibson
  • Anthropology and anarchism - Harold Barclay
  • The great days and now - Angus Calder
  • Comments on The Raven: Communication (Kropotkin, Gibson and Mutual Aid) - Peter Gibson
  • Publisher's Notes
  • Attachments

    raven-18.pdf (5.7 MB)



    2 years 1 month ago

    Submitted by Fozzie on June 11, 2022

    Ward's article on Milton Keynes reminded me of a conversation I once had about the place with a Town Planner. I said that I found it quite soulless and alienating. He replied that this couldn't possibly be right because he'd seen the plans and they were excellent!

    Needless to say, he'd never actually been to Milton Keynes and it appears that Colin Ward hadn't either when he wrote his piece.

    (I'm entirely open to the idea that there are nice things about the place and the communities that live there have done their best with what they have though...)

    Anarchy in Milton Keynes - Colin Ward

    Milton Keynes: Helmut Jacoby for MKDC Architects 1973-74
    Milton Keynes: Helmut Jacoby for MKDC Architects 1973-74

    Colin Ward examines interlocking musical communities in Milton Keynes, as described by anthropologist Ruth Finnegan's book The Hidden Musicians: music-making in an English town. In these cultural networks Ward sees evidence of anarchist tendencies and strains in society.

    Submitted by libcom on April 29, 2006

    Everyone has their own definition of anarchism. One I find generally useful is the first three paragraphs of the article Peter Kropotkin was asked to write for the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1905. This is the collection of volumes which (however repugnant we now find its sales techniques) is the place we look for a working definition of most things.

    Kropotkin's first paragraph said that:

    ANARCHISM (from the Greek, contrary to authority), is the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being.

    That's his first paragraph, and of course he has the usual problem of anyone writing an encyclopaedia definition, he has to be concise, but at the same time, to bring everything in. So his second paragraph goes:

    In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the State in all its functions. They would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international - temporary or more or less permanent - for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs."

    Kropotkin was a scientist, a physical geographer in origin, and his third paragraph drew an analogy from physics and from biology, and you might even claim from structural mechanics and music. For he claimed that:

    Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the Contrary - as is seen in organic life at large - harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the State.

    These opening remarks express the kernel of his argument for society as opposed to the State, and for the community as opposed to the government.

    Society or the State

    The next stage in the argument for me, at least, was provided by the philosopher Martin Buber, who wasn't an anarchist, although he had strong anarchist connections. He was the friend and executor of a German anarchist Gustav Landauer, who made a very profound remark, which I quote from Buber's book Paths in Utopia (Routledge, 49). "The state", said Landauer, "is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it contracting other relationships, by behaving differently." Buber wrote a brilliant essay called 'Society and the State' which was printed in English in the long-dead journal World Review in 1951, and printed in a book of his called Pointing the Way.

    Buber begins by making a clear distinction between the social principle and the political principle, pointing out that "it is inherent in social structures that people either find themselves already linked with one another in an association based on a common need or a common interest, or that they band themselves together for such a purpose, whether in an existing or a newly-formed society." And he then goes on to stress his agreement with the American sociologist Robert MacIver, that "to identify the social with the political is to be guilty of the grossest of all confusions, which completely bars any understanding of either society or the state".

    The political principle for Buber, just as for Kropotkin, is characterised by power, authority, hierarchy, dominion. He sees the social principle wherever people link themselves in the pursuit of a common need or interest. Then he has a very interesting flash of understanding, which I see endlessly illustrated in contemporary politics. What is it, Buber asks, that gives the political principle its ascendancy? His answer was: "The fact that every people feels itself threatened by the others gives the State its definite unifying power; it depends upon the instinct of self preservation of society itself; the latent external crisis enables it to get the upper hand in internal crises ... All forms of government have this in common: each possesses more power than is required by the given conditions; in fact, this excess in the capacity for making dispositions is actually what we understand by political power. The measure of this excess which cannot, of course, be computed precisely, represents the exact differences between administration and government." Buber calls this excess the "political surplus" and he observes that "its justification derives from the external and internal instability, from the latent state of crisis between nations and within every nation. The political principle is always stronger in relation to the social principle than the given conditions require. The result is a continuous diminution in social spontaneity."

    Neighbourhood and association

    I find this a devastating perception. And I think that a whole lot of people have always had an instinctive feeling that if any community can't organise itself, it is going to find governmental bodies filling the vacuum. There has been at least sixty years of effort to establish local community associations as voluntary, democratic, all-embracing bodies able to become unifying influences in every locality. These efforts are reported in a new book called Enterprising Neighbours: the development of the Community Association movement published this year by the National Federation of Community Associations. David Donnison provides an interesting introduction welcoming the honesty of this history because its approach to several questionable assumptions that a whole lot of worthy grassroots organisers take for granted, primarily the idea that "people want to spend their time making friends with neighbours rather than because they have shared interests".

    We can define the two possibilities as communities of propinquity and communities of interest. In practice plenty of us belong, for different reasons, to both, fulfilling Kropotkin's aspirations to "an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees" and so on. Students of the social problems that were said to arise in the vast new out-of town housing estates of the inter-war years, like Dagenham outside London or Wythenshawe outside Manchester, were apt to attribute them to the fact that huge new settlements of people who were strangers to each other found themselves living together in places without the familiar comrnuniry facilities of the places they had come from, and thought that what was needed was a programme of community building.

    The lessons were supposed to have been learned in the post-war programmes of New Towns which culminated with Milton Keynes. In practice the stop/go financing of the New Towns all through the fifties, sixties and seventies meant that the aspirations for synchronising new housing, new industry and social and community facilities seldom really happened as planned and as described in the publicity material. But I do think it is fair to say that the money invested in most of the New Towns on the funding of community facilities, including paying the salaries of people described as Community Development Officers or some similar title, was well spent, and contrasts favourably with the experience of the post-war versions of those pre-war out of town housing estates which we all know about: the places where we love to see television films of the blowing-up by public authorities (not anarchists) of tower blocks which won't have been paid for until the early 2lst century.

    All the same, the worthy citizens who organise local community associations, whom we all know, when they pause and reflect on their labours, talk wistfully of the apathy and indifference of the people all around. They are not angry, they are just regretful that other people don't live up to a particular idea of society and community based on propinquity. It makes me ponder yet again, not only on the very significant observation I have quoted to you from Professor Donnison, but on Kropotkin's aspirations for an anarchist society.

    Milton Keynes and music

    This is why I need to tell you about my discovery of anarchy, in Kropotkin's sense, in Milton Keynes. It is because I have been reading, with very great pleasure, the book The Hidden Musicians: music-making in an English town by Ruth Finnegan, published last year by Cambridge University Press. She is an anthropologist from the Open University, so the particular English town she describes is Milton Keynes. The immense advantage of her ethnographical approach is that she refrains from making those value assumptions about music that most people automatically assume. As we all know, people talk about 'serious' music, meaning the music they take seriously, and implying that all other music is somehow frivolous.

    Professor Finnegan has, I am sure, her own musical preferences, but she does not allow them to intrude on her study of music-making. I am reminded of Mark Twain's quip that "Wagner's music isn't really half as bad as it sounds".

    Salvation Army bands, the Sherwood Sinfonia, the families dressing up for the Country and Western night, church choirs, the Morris Men and a hundred rock groups are all music, and when you consider the people hiring venues, arranging gigs, negotiating with visiting soloists, drawing up programmes, ferrying their children to rehearsals and carting tons of equipment around, let alone packing in the audiences, you realise that a vast and hitherto unrecorded proportion of the population anywhere is directly involved in the activity of music-making. In fact you feel that the whole population in one way or another is indirectly involved.

    This is a remarkable social fact: that music-making is, more than anything else you can think of quickly, the cement of society, the expression of that social spontaneity that Buber was looking for, the most immediate and accessible example of Kropotkin's vision of the highest development of voluntary association in all its aspects, in all possible degrees, for all imaginable aims; ever changing, ever modified associations which carry in themselves the elements of their durability and constantly assume new forms which answer best to the multiple aspirations of all."

    Professor Finnegan manages to sweep aside endless assumptions: the sociologists' preoccupation with class, the distinctions we make between professional and amateur, and, above all, ideas about musical exclusiveness. The same busy performers can find themselves in a brass band one night, in a symphony orchestra another, and in an ad hoc jazz group at the weekend. This is the fluidity of involvement in changing communities that attracted Buber and Kropotkin. It's nice to think that a valuable element of the community quotient of any society, East or West, can be expressed in termsof the sheer number of young people endlessly practising for their big performances in a local pub under the self deprecating group names they choose (Ruth Finnegan lists more than a hundred, of which a mild example is 'Typical Shit'). This is the backhanded way in which shared enthusiasms hold communities together.

    Let us take a look at some of the interlocking, mutually supportive communities that her book describes, seeing them as a measure of the community content of Milton Keynes.

    The music subculture

    She notes how we have a socially defined canon of 'classical music' epitomised by varying combinations of professional players, live, broadcast and recorded, which "implicitly moulded people's views of music" but "there was also a whole grass-roots sub-culture of local classical music. Though perhaps `invisible' to most scholars, in practice this was the essential local manifestation of the national music system ... one aspect was the provision of audiences with the necessary skills of appreciation for professionals coming to give concerts locally, but it extended far beyond this to the whole system of local training, playing, actively practising musical groups and public performances by local musicians."

    One concrete example of this continuing tradition is the way in which printed scores and music parts, both vocal and instrumental, get passed on: "These were often borrowed rather than bought and when a local choir, say, found itself, as so often, singing from old and well-marked copies, it was easy to picture the earlier choirs 20, 30 or even 50 years ago singing from the self same copies - and repertoire - of classical choral music in the day when, perhaps, those parts cost just one penny."

    In Milton Keynes, as in anywhere else, the classical music tradition rests on highly trained specialist musicians, so it can be seen as a "high-art pursuit for the few". But looking a little closer, Ruth Finnegan sees that local musicians "varied enormously in terms of educational qualifications, specialist expertise, occupation, wealth and general ethos." Take the leading amateur orchestra, the Sherwood Sinfonia, where she found exceptions to the usual assumptions, "like the young sausage-maker, later music shop assistant, who besides being a Sherwood Sinfonia violinist was a keyboard player and composer with a local rock group, or pupils from local comprehensive schools not all in the 'best' areas."

    Take too the Brass Band world. Don't be deceived by the way that people imply that that sector is 'a world of its own' confined to families where it had become a tradition. There is endless evidence of this in the tradition of Salvation Army bands, works bands or Boys' Brigade bands, but we're all familiar with great and famous performers who belonged as much to the allegedly incompatible groupings of the dance band, jazz group or symphony orchestra. In Milton Keynes, Ruth Finnegan found that no other musical groups, except possibly a few church choirs, had such solid links, sometimes actual instruments and sheet music from long before the new city was conceived: from the Woburn Sands Band of 1867, the Wolverton Town and Railway Band of 1908 or the Bletchley Boys' Brigade Bugle Band of 1928. By the 1980s the constituents of, say, the Stantonbury Brass or the Bletchley Band and the new Broseley Brass had members of both sexes and all ages. Ruth Finnegan was assured that their political commitments were across the whole spectrum and the people involved included postmen, teachers, telephone engineers, motor mechanics, personnel managers,
    butchers, train drivers, clerks, labourers, storemen and shopworkers, "but also included computer engineers, a building inspector, a midwife and several schoolchildren".

    Forget your assumptions: the brass band world was more representative of class and occupation in Milton Keynes than any political group. And exactly the same was found to be true of the folk music world. One of the things she observed in local folk clubs was their relative transience: "There were others too, even less long-lasting, which for a time engaged people's enthusiasm but faded out after a few years or months ..." like the Concrete Cow Folk Club. One leading singer at the Black Horse in Great Linford explained that "anybody's welcome to join in, play along, sing a song, add some harmony to a chorus or simply have a beer and listen".

    Change and variety

    This is a reminder of Kropotkin's important stress on impermanence, and his insistence on "an infinite variety of groups ... temporary or more or less permanent ... an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium". In the brass world we emphasise the continuity of tradition, in the folk world we love the way in which the mood and the venue change from pub to pub. I see, where I live in Suffolk, how as the venue changes, performers, some of them old friends, others complete strangers, adjust to the mood, the audience and the acoustics, and play along together, sometimes accompanying a singer none of them have met before, exchanging through gestures and eye-signals information about key and tempo, chords and harmony. It is exactly the same automatic reciprocity that you notice between the members of a string quartet, with the significant difference that people like the Amadeus had played together for forty years.

    When the whole variegated patchwork of the folkweave pattern comes together, as in the Folk-on-the-Green Festival in Stony Stratford, they provide, as Ruth Finnegan comments, "a magnificent showpiece of local talent" bringing in other streams like Ceilidh bands to dance to, or the Morns-dancing groups. As one adherent told her, "by playing with other people you get another dimension to performance". Then she moves to the world of music theatre, meaning opera, the Gilbert and Sullivan light operas, musical plays - not so much 'Oklahoma' or 'West Side Story' as local groups could never afford the copyright fees involved, but old favourites and, for example, the series of musical plays based on local history which emerged on the Stantonbury Campus, one of which I have actually seen. It also covers the pantomimes put on at Christmas by every kind of group from schools to Women's Institutes.

    If your measure of the importance of music in human society is the sheer number of people involved in the actual production, music theatre must be the winner. Among performers it brings together both singers and actors, and it also calls for the utmost skill in scene designers, lighting electricians, painters and stage-hands, costume makers, and an enormous number of citizens involved in getting people to rehearsals, feeding and bedding them, booking halls, producing programmes, drumming up the audience and selling tickets. Many such ventures were conducted to raise funds for local causes, and Ruth Finnegan is eloquent about the meaning for the participants

    ...local soloists flourished and even the less skilled chorus and small-part singers expanded, steeped in music for hours on end, attending constant rehearsals, studying their parts in every odd moment they could snatch from work or family - small wonder that one concluded 'I ate, slept and dreamt music'. Some members had before had relatively little systematic musical experience, and for them such experience would be a revelation – as for the local plumber unable to read notated music who talked and talked of the joy of singing in operas and pantomimes and his discovery of the beauties of listening to music. For their regular audiences too, the public performances were not only grand occasions of theatrical display, marked by colour, movement, dance and dramatic as well as musical expression, but also an opportunity to hear well-known tunes and arrangements which even after the end of that year's performance could remain in the memory to evoke that special experience and lay the foundation for looking forward to next year's production."

    Fluidity and movement

    Then there's the jazz world. The three best-known bands playing in Milton Keynes in the early 1980s were the Original Grand Union Syncopators, the Fenny Stompers and the T-Bone Boogie Band. Dr Finnegan discusses these three with a brief mention of dozens of others in the area. These groups won a huge reputation locally, with wildly unexpected combinations of performers and instruments. Talking of the T-Bone Boogie Band, she explains that "they presented themselves as a zany 'fun band', but their act followed many traditional jazz and blues sequences, with beautiful traditional playing interspersed with their own wilder enactments of blues. They spoke of these as 'improvised out of nowhere, on the spur of the moment', but they were in practice based on long hours of jamming together as a group." She goes on to say that "they saw themselves as 'a community band', playing 'to give other people enjoyment ... and for our own enjoyment as well', a hobby rather than professional enterprise. When they were approached by a recording company and offered money to go professional, they turned it down."

    Her account of the fluidity of the jazz groups sounds like Kropotkin describing his ideal society. She sees the actual instrumental composition of jazz groups as "more variable than in most other musical worlds" and that "jazz musicians were tied neither to written forms nor to exact memorisation, but rather engaged in a form of composition-in-performance following accepted stylistic and thematic patterns".

    For them, jazz was freedom, as compared with either classical music or rock. She says that "far more than other musicians they would break into smiles of recognition or admiration as one after another player took up the solo spot, and looked at each other in pleasure after the end of a number, as if having experienced something newly created as well as familiar. As one local jazz player put it, 'we improvise, with the tunes used as vehicles, so everything the group does is original'. Local jazz musicians often belonged to several jazz bands, moving easily between different groups ... jazz in Milton Keynes is more a series of venues than an integrated and self conscious musical world ... and both the musical activity itself, and the shared skills, pride and conventions that constituted jazz playing seemed to be a continuing element in their own identity and their perceptions of others."

    Dissent and co-operation

    Then she moves to the country and western world, describing the Milton Keynes Divided Country and Western Club, going strong in Bletchley since the mid 1970s. The club's name, she says, indicated certain options. One of these was in dress: 'divided' between those who chose to come dressed `just as you like' and those who preferred `western dress'. Either was acceptable, and around half had opted for one or another version of 'western' gear which could range from a token cowboy hat or scarf or to the full regalia. "In contrast to rock and jazz events," she explains, "the audience sitting round the tables was family based, with roughly equal numbers of men and women, several children, and people of every age from the twenties upwards, including middle-aged and elderly people; only the late teenagers were absent. It was a 'family night out' ... the secretary welcomed individual visitors from other clubs to interest and smiles from his listeners - an established custom in country and western clubs, in keeping with their general atmosphere of friendliness and personal warmth".

    She makes it sound almost like a meeting of a religious sect like the Shakers in nineteenth century America: "As the evening went on, more and more people got up to dance, adding to and developing the music through their rhythmic movements in the dance - one of the age-old modes of musical expression and appreciation. The atmosphere was relaxed and unselfconscious. and most people whatever their age, sex or build looked remarkably carefree as they danced to the band - the middle-aged woman with her tight jeans, jersey and big leather belt over her well-rounded bulges, the visiting technician and grandfather with his broken smoke-stained teeth, gleaming gun and cowboy gear, the young wife out for the evening with her husband, drawn in by his general interest in country and western music and now sharing his enthusiasm – and scores of others."

    The country and western world was a co-existence of people interested in the 'western' aspects and those who most valued the music. This co-existence was summed up in the very name of the Milton Keynes Divided Country and Western Club, which as Dr Finnegan says, at first sight suggests dissension, but in practice symbolises fruitful co-operation and an ultimate sharing of interests between these wings of the country and western world.

    She moves on to another musical scene, rock and pop, a catch-all phrase since meanings and definitions are always shifting with what Derek Jewell calls the continual flux of the vocabulary of popular fashion. Dr Finnegan describes how "Milton Keynes was swarming with rock and pop bands. They were performing in the pubs and clubs, practising in garages, youth clubs, church halls and school classrooms, advertising for new members in the local papers and lugging their instruments around by car or on foot. There were probably about 100 groups, each with their own colourful names and brand of music ... From the amount of time, trouble and (in many cases) money the players invested in their music, and from their own comments, it was clear that they got great social and personal satisfaction from their band membership - 'making people listen to what you say' and 'finding a way to express ourselves' - rather than regarding it primarily as a profitable enterprise ... The players' ages, educational backgrounds and occupation were more varied than most of the generalisations about modern rock music and youth culture might suggest."

    She is greatly sceptical about the succession of scholarly writings about mass culture, one influential group seeing it as "essentially ruled by the market place, soporific and non-artistic, delivered by non-creative and commercialised performers to passive and brainwashed mass audiences," another group of Marxist critics seeing it as dominated by a capitalist power elite, while yet another declares that it is a "cultural struggle" with "the working class struggling to assert their own radical claims against the capitalist world" - a form of working-class youth protest.

    These views obviously aren't convincing when applied to "the amateur grass-roots local performers and their face-to-face audiences," but all the same, "local participants and observers were still to some extent affected by this series of assumptions and were prepared from time to time to make effective use of such images as their own publicity".

    Her own conclusion is that "the most prominent single characteristic of rock players in Milton Keynes - apart from their variety - was their interest in expressing their own views and personality through music-making: a stress on individuality and artistic creation which accords ill with the mass theorists' delineation of popular music". A striking feature she saw running through all the bands was a sense of personal pride and achievement. Her final word on them was that in such bands "their members felt they could really make some individual mark ... in contrast to the hierarchies and insecurities of school, work or the social services, playing in a band provided a medium where players could express their own personal aesthetic vision and through their music achieve a sense of controlling their own values, destiny and self identity."


    She goes on to discuss the processes by which musicians in Milton Keynes
    learned the techniques of their art, the nature of performances. Whether the
    performance was seen as an 'engagement', a 'concert', a 'recital', a 'booking'
    or a 'gig', there were several forms of social organisation required:
    "mechanisms to frame the occasion as somehow apart, prior preparation by
    organisers, and the crucial presence of an audience, not just as passive
    recipients but as active and experienced participants themselves playing an
    essential role in constituting the occasion as a musical event". Then she
    moves to an analysis of composition, creativity and performance. A lot of
    musical composition happens in Milton Keynes in several ways. "The first is
    the well-known classical mode of prior-written composition by an individual.
    This mode is assumed to be the natural form of 'composition' in most serious
    writing about music." A lot of that happens here, like the work of John
    Dankworth, working nationally and internationally, not primarily through local
    musical networks. There's a lot of church composition, hymns and carols, and a
    lot of music written for local school music festivals, or for the big music
    dramas from the Stantonbury drama group.

    But there are other models of composition which, she sees, "overlap and
    mutually enrich each other". And she concludes that "once one
    understands the validity of differing systems for creating original music, each
    autonomous in its own terms, it becomes clear that there is indeed a remarkable
    amount of musical creativity and the grass roots. In all forms of music, but
    perhaps most strikingly of all in the prior-composition-through practice of rock
    groups, the local musicians are quite consciously and deliberately among the
    modernday musical composers."

    Pluralism and commitment

    I have quoted at length from Dr Finnegan's account of the different musical
    worlds of Milton Keynes. She is well aware that there are others too. There's
    the big range of Irish music, both associated with groups like the Erin Singers
    and the Green Grass Social Club as well as the St Patrick's Day Mass of the
    Milton Keynes Irish Society. Or there's the Austrian, Swiss and German music at
    the Bletchley Edelweiss Club, or the Milton Keynes Welsh Society, or the Hindu
    Youth Organisation that celebrated the Diwali Festival, or the Buddhist group
    associated with the Peace Pagoda, or the musical traditions of the Sikh
    community and the Muslim population, each with their own musical traditions. Or
    the Milton Keynes Pipe and Drum Band or the celebration of the Chinese New Year
    with dragon and drum beat. She stresses once again that "in the limited
    sense in which the metaphor of 'musical world' is meaningful, there is a
    plurality of such worlds in local music-making."

    Then she examines the home, the school and the churches, clubs and pubs, not
    only as the physical places for music making, but as providing "a complex
    of expected roles and opportunities for music" which continues year after
    year. After all "music does not just happen `naturally' in any society, but
    has to have its recognised time and place, its organisation of personnel,
    resources, and physical locations". And she has two chapters, one called
    `Working at it' and another on `Small working bands', which illustrate the huge
    time and effort that vast numbers of people, a much wider group than actual
    performers, put into making music happen. Once more, I can't resist quoting from
    the book at length:

    Not surprisingly some groups were more effective than others in attracting
    the necessary personnel, coping with the various constraints, and more or less
    meeting their participants' aspirations, but even the smallest of them - the
    precarious church choir of four members as much as the 90-strong Milton Keynes
    Chorale - ultimately depended on the ordered commitment of its participants:
    without that none could continue.

    When one thinks of local music, then, the correct impression should not be
    either of the 'cultural desert' that some picture, or of a set of smartly
    operated and highly efficient groups, or yet of the natural co-operation of
    communally oriented or selfless individuals, but rather a variegated landscape
    made up of a whole series of differing kinds of groups and activities, some
    tightly organised, visible and populous, others more informal, some struggling
    or on their last legs, some starting up and perhaps benefiting from the
    dissolution of others, some established but still vulnerable, some in direct
    competition with other groups at some times but joining in co-operative
    ventures at others, some lasting over the years, and some appearing for just
    one or two events then lapsing. In the rich tapestry that makes up local
    music, what all these groups and activities have in common-whether large or
    small, 'successful' or not, harmonious or quarrelsome or mixed - is the need
    for a constant input of organised co-ordinated effort from those who at one
    level or another participate in them.

    Now where have you seen this kind of language before? Well precisely in
    Kropotkin's definition of anarchism with which I began. Just to complete the
    saga, I will quote &om Ruth Finnegan's next paragraph. "Many of the
    pictures we are given of cultural activity in this country rest on a top-down
    model (patronage coming from the state or the large commercial concerns) or on a
    model of culture, and more specifically music, as essentially and ideally the
    preserve of specialists or as primarily conducted through the mass media or
    large-scale professional concerts. Local music-making falls easily within none
    of these models. Nor does it fit the also common idea that amateur cultural
    activities are somehow natural, easy and carefree, costing nothing and outside
    the normal sphere of those who are interested in organisational processes. On
    the contrary, the organisational processes of effective work, decision making,
    communication, choice between alternative methods of achieving objectives,
    delegation of responsibilities and, above all, co-operation in the attaining of
    more or less agreed ends can all be found in the processes of running local
    amateur music - indeed they must be found there if it is to continue."

    My claim is that this book encapsulates a marvellous piece of research,
    described with great sensitivity, and beautifully written. Yet nearly everyone I
    know in Milton Keynes has never heard of this book published last year, and the
    one who had heard of it said, correctly, that it was so ludicrously expensive (£35)
    that he could never dreamof buying it. I myself have never seen it reviewed
    anywhere, yet I see it as the most enlightening piece of anthropological or
    sociological research that I have read for years. Obviously the price has
    nothing todo with any wishes of the author.

    Yet if I were the marketing manager of the Cambridge University Press I would
    have instantly seen the opportunities of a paperback run-on, on newsprint if
    it's any cheaper, of several thousand copies with big lettering on the cover
    saying 'Music in Milton Keynes: the truth at last', and I would have touted it
    around every bookshop andnewsagent in Bletchley, Stoney Stratford, Wolverton and
    central Milton Keynes, and would find that vast number of citizens would want to
    buy it, if only because on the evidence of this book a very big proportion of
    the people who live there are involved in one or another of these plural worlds
    of music in Milton Keynes.

    The lessons

    I've just referred to a failure in marketing, and this gives me the chance to
    draw an obvious implication from this book. For ten years we have been lectured
    by our rulers about the virtues of the market economy, the alleged magic of the
    market, and this by a clever propaganda trick has been described as the
    enterprise culture. Now enterprise has nothing to do with making a profit by
    buying cheap and selling dear. In the very last paragraph of her magnificent
    book Ruth Finne an reflects that "the reality of human beings is to be
    found not only (maybe not mainly) in their paid employment or even their
    thought, but also in their engagement in recognised cultural practices ... Among
    the most valued and, it maybe, most profoundly human of such practices in out
    society is that of music

    If my purpose was just to write about her book, that is where I would end.
    But I want you to reflect on what an interesting world we would be living in if
    we organised everything the way we organise our music. I mentioned Martin
    Buber's perception of the social principle as what happens wherever people
    "link themselves in the pursuit of a common need or interest" and
    Kropotkin's concept of this kind of voluntary co-operation as a social structure
    which would "represent nothing immutable. On the contrary - as is seen in
    organic life at large" he went on " - harmony would result from an
    ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitude
    of forces and influences", but above all, "would represent an
    interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of
    all sizes ... temporary or more or less permanent - forall possible

    Suppose this was the way we chose to organise our work, or our education or
    the production and management of housing, or our health services, or our
    transport, or any of the things that make life possible and enjoyable in Milton
    Keynes or anywhere else?



    12 years 9 months ago

    In reply to by

    Submitted by blackout on October 6, 2011

    Does anybody have a copy of the book he references in this article?

    The Raven #19: On Sociology

    A "wildcat" cartoon by Donald Rooum in which the "professor" character is writng an overblown analysis of an old Beatrix Potter story for children

    1992 issue of anarchist journal The Raven with articles on Sociology, overwhelmingly by academics.

    Submitted by Fozzie on June 18, 2022


    • Editorial - John Pilgrim
    • A Note on Contributors
    • What they say about sociology
    • The Vision of Sociology - C.W. Mills
    • Structure and Change: the Central Sociological Problem - John Ebbrell
    • Human Groups and Morality: An Anarchist View? - Professor Sprott
    • Unreason and Uncertainty in the Practice of Sociology - David J. Lee
    • Social Authority and Political Power - Robert Nisbet
    • Change or Acceptance: human nature and the sociological perspective - John Pilgrim
    • Martin Buber - Sociologist - Colin Ward
    • Radical and Sociological Pluralism - Robert Nisbet
    • The Last Giant - Laurie Taylor
    • Comte for the World Today - Ronald Fletcher
    • Why is Sociology? - Robert S. Lynd
    • Mutual Aid and Conflict Resolution in the Traditional Egyptian Village - Harold B. Barclay
    • Samuel Smiles: The Unexpurgated Version - Angus Calder
    • Book Review: Demanding the Impossible by Peter Marshall - Nicolas Walter
    • Comments on The Raven: Communication 1 - Harold Barclay
    • Comments on The Raven: Communication 2 - Michael Duane
    • Corrections to Raven 18 - Harold Barclay
    • The Last Word - Lee and Newby

    Cover artwork by Donald Rooum


    Raven19.pdf (5.71 MB)


    The Raven #20: Peter Kropotkin 150th Anniversary

    A line drawing portrait of Peter Kroptkin

    Issue of this anarchist journal published by Freedom Press in 1992.

    Submitted by Fozzie on December 21, 2022


    • Editorial
    • Peter Kroptkin 1842-1921 - Herbert Read
    • Raven Review: words of a rebel - Nicolas Walter
    • Kropotkin's Federalism - Colin Ward
    • Freedom and Order in Nineteenth Century Anarchism - George Crowder
    • Bakunin's and Kropotkin's theories of revolution in comparative perspective - Laslo Sekelj
    • Peter Kropotkin at work - Max Nettlau
    • Anarchists have forgotten their principles - Errico Malatesta
    • Pro-Government Anarchists - Errico Malatesta
    • Peter Kropotkin: Recollections and criticisms of an old friend - Errico Malatesta

    PDF courtesy of Sparrows Nest Archive, Nottingham.



    The Raven #21: Feminism, anarchism, women

    21st issue of The Raven: anarchist quarterly dated January-March 1993 on anarchism, feminism and women. Some of these articles, like the one by Peter Geiger, for example are terrible. Reproduced for reference only.

    Submitted by Steven. on January 23, 2013


    • Publishers’ Note
    • Anarchism/Feminism - Zero Collective
    • Socialism, Feminism and Ecology - Brian Morris
    • Women and the Peace Movement - Emily Johns
    • Men are Human Beings Too! - Peter Geiger
    • Anarchism and Feminism - Lisa Bendall
    • For a Women’s Page in Freedom - Mary Quintana
    • Women of the Spanish Revolution -Silvia Edwards
    • Agnes Burns Wieck - Adrian Walker
    • Mary Wollstonecraft - Voltairine de Cleyre
    • On Mary Wollstonecraft -Brian Morris
    • Louise Michel - Gillian Fleming
    • Charlotte M. Wilson, 1854-1944 - Nicolas Walter
    • Lilian Wolfe - Vernon Richards
    • Marie Louise Berneri: her contribution to Freedom Press - John Hewetson
    • Further reading


    Raven-21.pdf (4.27 MB)


    The Raven #22: Crime

    Cover illustration: The Boys Prison at Tothill F ields, Westminster, from Richard Byrne Prisons & Punishment of London, Grafton 1992

    1993 issue of this anarchist journal published by Freedom Press. Contents of extremely variable quality.

    Submitted by Fozzie on December 22, 2022

    The John Myhill article is remarkably terrible and uses a caricature of man-hating PC feminism gone mad to delegitimise the voices of victims of sexual abuse who dare to speak out. It is reproduced here for references purposes.


    • Editors Introduction - Chris Platts
    • Delinquency Then and Now - Tony Gipson
    • Crime, Delinbuency and the State - John Pilgrim
    • Penal Reform: the Great British Failure - Colin Ward
    • Crime and Punishment: Conservative Style - Jeremy Cameron
    • Anarchy and the Mad Axe Man - Stephen Cullen
    • Clara Wickman and the End of Criminal Law - Hans Ramaer and Thom Holterman
    • Children Abusing Adults: Rule 43 - John Myhill
    • The Challenor Case Thirty Years On - Donald Rooum
    • The Crime of Punishment - Clarence Darrow
    • Community and the Regulation of Conduct - David Hartley

    PDF courtesy of Sparrows Nest Archive, Nottingham.


    TheRaven22.pdf (28.56 MB)


    The Challenor Case Thirty Years On - Donald Rooum

    Photograph of a young Donald Rooum

    Anarchist Donald Rooum reflects on a groundbreaking case he was involved in during 1963, which led to the downfall of a corrupt senior police officer.

    Submitted by Fozzie on December 22, 2022

    Thirty years ago, the British public trusted the police not to bring false prosecutions. it was known that officers occasionally lost their tempers and belted people. It was known that a few 'rotten apples' accepted bribes or engaged in thievery. But it was not widely suspected that police invented cases against innocent persons.

    Things are different today. Juries, and even some magistrates, no longer believe police witnesses just because they are the police, or disbelieve defence witnesses just because they contradict the police. Courts have become more even-handed, causing police spokesmen to rage against the number of acquittals, and right-wing politicians to propose laws against pleading 'Not Guilty'.

    The erosion of bias has been accelerated recently, by some dreadful cases including more than a dozen victims shown to have been framed for murder. But the process began thirty years ago, with a case meriting no more than a £10 fine.

    The case is legendary within the police force itself, as we learn from the former policeman Mike Seabrook1 :

    "Years ago, before I joined the job, the first chilly draught penetrated the cosy love affair between the British public and the British bobby, in the form of the Challenor affair. Harry Challenor was a very tough Detective Sergeant on 'C' Division of the Metropolitan Police. He had a reputation for being utterly fearless, and also for having an uncompromising loathing, amounting to an obsession, of organised vice — in which 'C' Division, which includes Soho, abounded then as it does now.

    Challenor was so feared by the big-gang villains that if he walked into a nightclub where the Kray brothers were drinking (they were then in their heyday as unofficial but undisputed kings of London's organised crime) they would immediately get up and walk out, leaving their drinks, their companions and their premises. The reason was that if they remained in their seats he was more likely to walk straight up to them, where so many on both sides of the law had quailed before them, and announce quietly 'You're nicked.' The charges would be announced later, when he had had time to decide what he had arrested them for.

    If this is true, of course, it is a very serious infraction of the law. Yet I cannot see any great injustice. I speak for the majority of policemen, I believe, in feeling that where people like the Krays are concerned the gloves must come off. I never heard anybody condemn Challenor. Indeed, all the accounts I heard of him from those who remembered him were told with immense admiration and approval.

    Harry Challenor was put on demo duty at the height of a decade of student unrest. What he apparently did was 'stitch up' two students by planting half-bricks in their pockets. He then arrested them for carrying offensive weapons. It may well be that he thought the two were not real students at all but political agitators paid by the Russians - a very common animal in those days - or at least at the scene of whatever demo it was for the purpose of stirring up mischief. And he may have been right.

    Unfortunately, forensic scientists were able to prove that the two half-bricks found in the two young men's pockets were the two halves of the same brick; and it was proved by other evidence that the two students could not have been in each other's company for a very long time beforehand. Challenor was undone. He escaped imprisonment (which quite possibly saved his life) but he was finished forever as a policeman.

    The British bobby's reputation for total incorruptibility - which he had never deserved in the first place, and couldn't have deserved since he is a representative of the human species which is infinitely fallible was punctured never to return."

    Like all legends, this account is glamorised and simplified. There is no record of Challenor ever going near the Kray brothers. The Daily Mail celebrated him as "Challenor the gangbuster" when he secured the conviction of five protection racketeers. But the Court of Appeal released the 'gang' in 1964 after hearing that three of them, a waiter, a wine salesman and a bookie's runner, had nothing to do with any protection racket. The other two were protectionists who worked solo and had never met before Challenor brought them together.

    It appears that Challenor determined to rid Soho of the two thugs. As long as each worked alone, demanding money with menaces from clip joints, spielers and other shady businesses, the courts would treat them leniently. They would only get long sentences if they were seen as gangsters, so Challenor invented a gang. Hard luck on the innocent, one of whom got seven years. But if the price of getting two villains banged up was to frame three inoffensive citizens, then Challenor was prepared to pay the price.

    In the bricks case, planting was done by four officers: DS Challenor and PCs Battes, Goldsmith and Oakey. The victims were not two but eight: four demonstrators and four lads who had nothing to do with the demonstration but were easy to pick on.

    And the evidence which ruined Challenor depended on his not putting a piece of brick in my pocket.

    I wrote a full account of events as I experienced them in Anarchy 362 .

    On 9th, 10th and 11th June 1963, the King and Queen of the Hellenes made a state visit to London, and were followed by jeering crowds wherever they went. Greece was becoming a police state. Gregory Lambrakis, a Greek MP who favoured nuclear disarmament, had been murdered by fascists acting as police auxiliaries.

    On Wednesday 10th June the Queens of Greece and Britain appeared together on a balcony, and were booed. Queen Frederika took it in her stride, but Queen Elizabeth was seen to stumble slightly. Queen Frederika then appeared on her own and got a boo, then Queen Elizabeth appeared alone and got a loud, enthusiastic boo all for herself.

    Late at night Henry Brooke, then Home Secretary, summoned a press conference. He was renowned for rigidity and coldness, but on that occasion was reported by the Daily Express to be red-faced and trembling. "The Queen of Britain has been booed tonight, and I am furious". He invited everyone to "show contempt" for the demonstrators.

    The following evening, Thursday 11th June 1963, there was a state banquet at the Claridge's Hotel, and I was trying to dodge the police cordon, carrying a large sheet of paper bearing the words 'Lambrakis R.I.P.' A uniformed policeman took it off me and was reading it slowly when four men in plain clothes appeared. I said politely "Can I have my banner back?"

    One of the plainclothes men was distinguished by his trousers, which were not quite long enough to cover the tops of his police boots. Detective Sergeant Challenor. He stepped forward. "Can you have your what back?"

    "My banner."

    "You're fucking nicked, my old beauty" he said happily, and gave me a clout on the ear. On the way to the police station, in a van full of uniforms, he was full of noisy jokes: "Where the fuck are we going? Nick the driver." To his three mates in the street: "'Aven't you got yourself a prisoner yet, Ginger? Cor, you are slow?' To a girl demonstrator who cheekily asked for a lift: "Yer, Right under the bleeding chops." In the police station he clouted me up the stairs, repeatedly shouting "Gerrup them stairs", a catchphrase from a comic radio show.

    "Boo the Queen, would you?" he snarled.

    "No" I said truthfully. On Wednesday it had been my turn to babysit, and my companion Irene had booed the Queen.

    "Eh? But you sympathise with 'em, don't you?" He knocked me flying with three more clouts to the ears. "There you are, my old darling, 'aye that with me. And just to make sure we 'aven't forgotten it ..." He took from his pocket a parcel of newspaper, which he opened with a flourish. Inside was a bit of brick. "There you are, my old beauty. Carrying an offensive weapon. You can get two years for that." My chances were remote. The word of a policeman, or possibly four policemen, against the word of a demonstrator. But I remembered Stimer's maxim3 :

    "I do not surrender to you, I only wait. When I can come at you I will; and meanwhile, if I can find any weakness in you, I will draw it to your attention."

    So I leaned against the detention room door and listened for the faint possibility of a weakness.

    I heard Challenor recounting, in courtroom style, how he had stopped someone in the street and taken a piece of brick from his pocket. He repeated this recitation three times. He was charging three other victims, but at the time I thought he must be rehearsing his lines.

    Faint hope began to dawn. A week or so earlier I had read a book on forensic science by a former superintendent of the Metropolitan Police Laboratory, which enunciated Locard's Principle, "every contact leaves its trace".

    A brick in a pocket would surely leave a trace. If they neglected to put a brick in my pocket, and if the man persisted in his story that he found it there, and if I could prove this was the suit I was wearing, and if I could get it to a forensic laboratory before I could clean the pockets, there was a chance.

    I was invited to sign a list of property taken off me, "two shillings silver, seven pence copper, portion of brick". I said "I'm not signing that" and waited for another clout on the ear. But they just said "Refuses to sign. Right", and wrote 'Refuses to sign' in the space for the signature.

    PC Battes took my fingerprints and filled in a description form. "Grey suit" he said. Anxious to have the suit identified, I said "Grey-green". He said "I'm not writing a description, I'm just filling the form in". I could not argue without reminding them to put a brick in the pocket.

    But I need not have worried. I was kept in the cells overnight and driven to the magistrate's court, and from there went straight to the solicitor's office. There was never any doubt about my suit.

    The solicitor was Stanley Clinton-Davies, later a Member of Parliament, a Junior Minister, a European Commissioner, and now a member of the House of Lords. He telephoned Irene, asking her to bring some clothes I could change into. Irene had been told of my arrest by Peter Gibson and Anne Forsyth, who had seen the arrest and thought it more violent than it was. She arrived with the two youngest children, expecting to find me covered in blood.

    My book on forensic science, Cuthbert's Science and the Detection of Crime, says4 :

    "Case work is never refused for the defence, and much work is done which favours the accused. That the police use the facilities more than the defence is probably due to the fact that police are more aware of the benefits than some members of the legal profession."

    Not so. When Mr Clinton-Davies telephoned the Metropolitan Police Laboratory, he was told yes, they would examine the suit, but it must be brought to them by the prosecuting officer who must be told exactly why the defence wanted the suit examined.

    Fortunately there are independent forensic scientists who work in civil cases such as patent infringements. My solicitor found Ferdinand Kayser, retired from full-time employment as a forensic scientist for the Gillette razor blade company. Mine was his first criminal case.

    I engaged a barrister, Mr Michael Sherrard, to make the magistrate listen to the defence. Edward Robey, the magistrate who heard my case, had one of the other brick cases in his court a month later. Same defence, same expert witness, a mere constable prosecuting. But this defendant did not have a barrister so Robey found him guilty.

    Mr Robey recalls my case in his memoirs5 :

    "Expert evidence was called to show that the exhibit in Rooum's Case was friable and would have left particles of brickdust in the defendant's pocket if it had been put there. The exhibit was handed up to me, and when I touched it loose grains came off onto my desk. It was further established that not a single particle of brickdust had been found in the defendant's pockets, and also that he had no opportunity of cleaning out his pockets prior to the jacket coming into the possession of the expert witness. Having heard the evidence on both sides I stated I was left in a state of doubt and dismissed the case."

    I was worried when Mr Challenor started to give evidence, because his story was very different from the one he had told in the police station. But he did not change the bit about finding the brick in my pocket, so I breathed again.

    He was familiar with Locard's Principle, which he summarised, cockily, in answer to one of Mr Sherrard's questions. He must surely have learned in police training that the way to plant evidence is not just to say you found it, but to put it in place and then actually find it. He could have noticed his error, and corrected it by saying I was holding the piece of brick in my hand. But he fluffed it.

    I believe this mistake caused his mental breakdown. His resilience depended on his perception of himself as a smart operator. He could bounce back from any misfortune not of his own making, but could not cope with defeat by his own stupidity.

    Long out of mental hospital, but still on tranquillisers after thirty years, he still cannot face his blunder. As he and his journalist collaborator put in his memoirs6 :

    "In my heart of hearts I have always wanted to explain, if not justify, my fall from grace, but I have never been able to bring myself to face up to the realities of what brought it about. The mere effort of trying to recall exactly what happened on one fateful night made me physically ill. There are still blank areas in my memory where the 'Brick Case' is concerned. To let it rest there would appear too much like a glib evasion of unpalatable truths, so I have interspersed what I can recall with the transcripts of the Court hearings, and the official enquiry that followed. (Even that proved too great a strain and I was ill again for the first time for a considerable period and had to undergo further treatment before I could continue.)"

    Defenders of the police reputation tended to suggest that Challenor was already mad when he led his three constables out to plant the bricks. The Court of Appeal, releasing the victims of his 'gangbuster' case, remarked that he was "probably" mentally ill when he framed them in 1962. Mary Grigg commented in 1965 in her book The Challenor Case7 :

    "Solid facts seem to have been lost in the course of inquiries into the detective sergeant's mental condition. Compared to the nebulous conclusion that he could possibly have been insane at a certain point, there was very strong evidence that he was behaving improperly. A perverse kind of reasoning seems to be employed in saying that because Challenor might have been mad he could have fabricated charges. One could equally cogently say that although he fabricated charges he could have been mad when he did so.

    Insanity, in this case, became something of a smokescreen. When it at last became clear that major enquiries had to be set up, it was asked: how could an officer who was insane be allowed on duty? The question the inquiries ought to have been investigating was: how could a police officer be allowed by his colleagues and superiors to go on framing charges?"

    The question, how could an officer who was insane be allowed on duty, was asked by the first, and so far only, Public Inquiry set up under the Police Act 1964. It was conducted by A.E. James QC in a vacant building, now the Museum of Mankind. Martin Ennals, then General Secretary of the National Council for Civil Liberties, was present throughout. He wrote in Anarchy 568 :

    "For nearly nine weeks Mr James sat, benign, avuncular, bespectacled and bald, shining down upon a battery of barristers, giving confidence to the witnesses and courtesy to the lawyers. No one could have been more fair, patient and tolerant, no one more willing to listen or anxious to learn.

    The more therefore the surprise of the total whitewash of the published report."

    Wherever a police officer is accused of lying, Mr James concludes that the accuser is lying. He studiously avoids finding even Challenor, or the three jailed constables, guilty of any falsehood. Police evidence is always believed, except when police contradict each other.

    Of the 'gangbuster' case, he writes9 :

    "I reject as false the testimony of Mr Pedrini that DS Challenor produced the iron tube to him in a cell saying, 'That's yours', and threatened and assaulted him.

    I reject the evidence of Mr Cheeseman that DS Challenor produced the knife to him in his cell saying, 'That's for you', and I am satisfied that DS Challenor did not strike Mr Cheeseman.

    I reject Mr Ford's evidence concerning the second knife which he said was put away by DS Challenor on the arrival of a Police Inspector."

    Of a later protection gang case10 :

    "I find no evidence to support a contention that DS Challenor instructed or countenanced the 'planting' of evidence by any other officer. Indeed, I am not satisfied that any weapon was 'planted'."

    Of another case11 :

    "The reliable evidence strongly points to the conclusion that DS Challenor did not place the detonators in the cushion but did make a genuine discovery thereof, and that is my conclusion."

    In the brick cases the evidence of police falsehood is incontrovertible. So12 :

    "The terms of reference of the Inquiry did not necessitate any findings as to whether DS Challenor fabricated evidence by 'planting' bricks upon innocent persons. I have therefore studiously avoided making any findings on those questions."

    Mr James finds13 that the apparent enjoyment with which I gave my evidence "detracted from its objectivity and the weight which could be given to it". Whereas Mary Grigg flatters me14 :

    "If Challenor hadn't arrested Donald Rooum, he might have gone on framing charges indefinitely. Of the hundreds of demonstrators milling around Claridge's, the detective sergeant chose a professional cartoonist. He could talk and write fluently and persuasively. He even had enough money to pay a barrister. 'British justice - the best that money can buy' Rooum proclaimed, proceeding to address meetings on the subject. His first comment on his case was a cartoon of a bobby on a crumbling pedestal - and himself holding a small portion of masonry and saying 'I've dislodged a bit of brick'. Challenor must have forgotten that in every group of people who don't matter, there can always be one or two who might."

    She might have written with more truth, 'If Challenor hadn't been grossly incompetent he might have gone on framing charges indefinitely'. I knew nothing of him before be arrested me, and my object in proving him a liar was to save my own skin. Nevertheless, am proud of my part in his downfall.

    If we are to believe Seabrook's allegation, that all the police who knew Challenor remember him "with intense admiration and approval", then we must also believe the traditional street cry:

    I'll sing you a song
    and it won't take long:
    All coppers are bastards.

    • 1Mike Seabrook (1987) Coppers: an inside view of the British police, London, Harrap Ltd, page 106.
    • 2Donald Rooum (1964) I've Dislodged a Bit of Brick in Anarchy, number 36, volume 4, pages 40-61.
    • 3Max Stirner (1845, translated 1959) 'Freedom and self-ownership' in University Libertarian 8, page 9. (See The Ego and Its Own, London, Rebel Press, 1993, page 166, for a different translation.)
    • 4C.R.M. Cuthbert (1962) Science and the Detection of Crime, London, Hutchinson Grey Arrow, page 85.
    • 5Edward Robey (1976) The Jester and the Court, London, William Kimber, page 154.
    • 6Harold Challenor and Alfred Draper (1990) Tanky Chalienor: SAS and the Met, London, Leo Cooper, page 3.
    • 7Mary Grigg (1965) The Challenor Case, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, page 176.
    • 8Martin Ennals (1965) ‘Mr James and Sergeant Challenor’ in Anarchy, number 56, volume 5, page 316.
    • 9Arthur Evan James (1965) Report of Inquiry into the circumstances in which it was possible for Detective Sergeant Harold Gordon Ghallenor of the Metropolitan Police to continue on duty at a time when he appears to have been affected by the onset of mental illness, London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office (Cmnd 2735), page 151.
    • 10ibid, page 62.
    • 11ibid, page 58.
    • 12ibid, page 102.
    • 13ibid.
    • 14Mary Grigg, op pit, page 174.




    1 year 7 months ago

    Submitted by Fozzie on December 22, 2022

    This (along with Nicolas Walter's Spies For Peace account in issue 5), is one of the best pieces ever included in The Raven.


    1 year 7 months ago

    Submitted by Steven. on December 23, 2022

    This is so good! Donald told me about this incident a couple of times but not in this much detail, so interesting. Just one thing there appears to be a small OCR error here: "a case meriting no more than a km fine."
    Also "two young men's pockets were the two halves of the it brick"


    1 year 7 months ago

    Submitted by Fozzie on December 23, 2022

    Ah thanks for checking Steven, I will sort them out.

    Submitted by Steven. on December 24, 2022

    Fozzie wrote: Ah thanks for checking Steven, I will sort them out.

    Brilliant cheers. was also very interesting to see a photo of Donald young!

    Red Marriott

    1 year 7 months ago

    Submitted by Red Marriott on December 26, 2022

    This case is mentioned in 'Ringolevio: A life Played For Keeps' by Emmett Grogan, the late San Francisco Digger. He gives a somewhat garbled account and claims that in his pre-Digger days he was also fitted up by Challenor, convicted and jailed but then released due to Rooum & co.'s efforts - for which he expresses much gratitude in the book.

    The Raven #23: Spain + Emma Goldman

    Cover of Raven 23

    A 1993 issue of this anarchist journal published by Freedom Press. Themed around Spain: Franco and After / Emma Goldman.

    Submitted by Fozzie on December 23, 2022


    Spain: Under Franco & After

    • Spanish Anarchism in Exile - Jose Peirats
    • Which Way forward for the CNT ? - Les Amis de la CNT (AIT)
    • Mondragon in review - Mike Long
    • La Fundacion: reality and appearance in Spain - Neil Birrell
    • Franco’s mass graves - John Rety

    Emma Goldman

    • Emma Goldman in Exile: English Conservatism and the Spanish Revolution - David Goodway
    • Emma Goldman: a voice for women? - Donna Farmer

    llustrations between pages 240 and 245


    TheRaven23.pdf (29.55 MB)


    The Raven #24: Science 1

    Cover shows the names of contributors distorted in a circle which might be a microscope lens?

    1993 issue of anarchist journal The Raven featuring articles on science.

    Submitted by Fozzie on June 25, 2022