Truth or Dare

Reactions to our supplement No 3 (with 166) were fewer than anticipated. Mostly they came from Class War supporters objecting to ‘personal attacks’ on Freedom Press and Woodcock.

One comrade wrote: ‘I am deeply worried about the viciousness and venom which is finding its way into our movement. Can we do anything to build up a greater sense of comradeship? We’ve seen the ego trippers, the transient and armchair revolutionaries, but somehow a reasoned perspective has always ultimately prevailed, and it hurts me to see the movement tearing itself apart and losing sight of the real enemy’. This begs the question of conscious penetration, but it is echoed in differing tones by several letters. ‘I have read Black Flag for several years and will continue to do so but I would prefer if you don’t waste my time and yours by producing such garbage’, writes Charlie from Manchester, ‘Why waste valuable resources on producing shit like the aforementioned when it is clear that more down to earth agitational material is needed …’ This was a separately priced supplement from Black Flag.

As to wasting valuable resources, one friend, Mark, asked the cost of the supplement so he could pay for it, an unexpected action which made his feelings clear, at least!

A pseudo libertarianism is being given out as anarchism, and is being adopted by every party from the Tories and even the fascists to the Labour Party and the SDP. Ostensibly from within the movement, the historical record is falsified, the theory garbled. Should we stand aside and say, Oh, sorry, we know you’re on an ego trip, or something worse, but let’s be buddies?

George Woodcock’s Anarchism is issued all over the world by Penguins, perpetuating lies and myths. Yet some people think this is merely a ‘London’ matter – as they can’t hope to meet the worthy doctor now that he’s made it, they take it that references to him are just a ‘trip down memory lane’. But his attitudes are still flogged by them. In attacking him, are we talking only to ‘anarchists’? Are we not talking to the next generation who will otherwise learn about anarchism and its alleged activists only from Woodcock or by courtesy of the Amsterdam Institute – or from the rubbish that appears in the press? Will the workers ever want to switch back to Anarchism if this lie prevails? And can one be so blind as not to see that this is precisely the point of the exercise and what makes the Amsterdam Institute (Dutch State-funded) and Woodcock (Canadian State subsidised) tick?

Drowned Rat’ of Bristol thinks we are ‘increasingly concerned with talking to anarchists and not bothering with the fact that most people are not anarchists’ (a strange reading of Black Flag) but a Northern Ireland comrade who found the article fascinating and a Scottish comrade wanted the supplement reproduced as a pamphlet for the younger generation; while another felt that he had always been puzzled as to the apparent lack of democracy in the anarchist movement, thinking Freedom was its official organ yet having no responsibility to anyone. Vernon Richards, as president for life (or whatever) of Freedom Press who has planned the succession after his death by nominating his own trustees (some not claiming to be anarchists) has a position unique in British politics! One might assume, and many do, that it is his enterprise, funded and founded by him. Not so. In response to our article he grandly declares, without any explanation, in true Woodcock-style, all the factual statements about Freedom Press are lies! We ask therefore: how does a paper allegedly a hundred years old come to be in his personal fief? By election? By purchase? By acclaim? Did Kropotkin found a business dynasty (if he did he lost it before his death) or a service to the movement which it no longer is?

Malc of Bradford says sarcastically, ‘Yawn! Yawn! So George Woodcock can’t spell Durruti. Shock horror! Neither can I, so that does that make me a Liberal Fascist?’ It sure wouldn’t help establish your credentials for writing about the Spanish Anarchists as if you were an expert, mate. Dr Woodcock has for years been putting forward a false impression of the FAI (which incidentally percolates to all the groups outside the DAM and even some people in it). That he can’t spell the name of its most written-of activist only gives a clue he doesn’t take his ‘evidence’ from the Spanish sources but from other humbugs, mostly Marxist academics, all copying each other like the proverbial launderers taking in each others washing But, like cribbing schoolkids, giving themselves away by copying each other’s errors.

Malc worries that we’re ‘venting certain people’s personal vendettas’. Strange that he doesn’t worry that the whole FAI, with its proud record to the anarchist movement, is denigrated and misrepresented within the anarchist movement solely because of Woodcock’s vendetta. What ‘personal vendetta’ have we? We dislike him for his atrocity stories about our Spanish friends not for the colour of his eyes. You may call it ‘vendetta’; we call it ‘solidarity’; Woodcock calls them murderers, we call him a liar and a swindler, and put that in the historical record as fact. Perhaps if Malc comes to learn about Durruti he may come to dislike Woodcock, in whose defence he tries to compare a professor with a printworker – after all, if you work for a reactionary firm you’re just as bad as they are aren’t you? A supplement explaining Class Struggle is clearly called for (and promised)

Black Flag 169 1987-04-06

[Uploaded as supporting material for ‘Slaughter or slander? Notes on the Albert Meltzer-George Woodcock conflict’ in KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No.107-108, December 2022: ]