(en) Extracts from FREEDOM 14/12/96

esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 14:54:43 +0000


FREEDOM PRESS
84B, WHITECHAPEL HIGH ST.,
LONDON
E1 7QX UK

(scanned article)
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WHO WANTS THE SINGLE CURRENCY?

The burning issue of the single
currency has nothing to do with a
loss of sovereignty (no pun intended)
as the vocal Euro-sceptics maintain
in their propaganda, but a lot to do
with vested interests of all kinds. The
fact, for instance, that the leading
industrialists are in favour of the
single currency, while a bunch of
politicians are not, does make one
come to the conclusion that the
politicians feel that their 'power' will
be eroded by a single currency. We
wonder what connections some of
them may have with the banks, the
City and the money market? After all,
London is the world's largest, with a
turnover of $69 billion a day, and to
wipe out more than half of that very
profitable business for the money-
changers would be a 'disaster' for them,
but not for the millions of holiday-
makers who are regularly ripped off
when they change their pounds for
francs or pesetas or marks and vice
versa.
In this writer's opinion the single
currency will benefit such industries
as car production, for today a car is
no longer made in one country. It is
not even necessarily assembled in one
country. Remember the way Fords of
Dagenham produced the chassis which
was then loaded onto trucks and
transferred to Belgium (or somewhere
in Europe) to be completed, and then
returned to the British market? Think
what headaches are created by
ctllati@g excharlge rates for this
kind of production in heavy industry.

The real power in the hands of the
government (the politicians) is to
play with exchange rates. When
exports are flagging, a bit of
devaluation boosts exports (since the
importers are also more concerned
with profits than patriotism and their
local industries). The only problem for
Britain is that we import most of our
raw materials (having closed down
most of the local mines, in spite of
there being coal down below for three
hundred years, so we now import the
stuff) and therefore devaluation can
be a double-edged weapon unless
stocks of the raw materials are high.

One can only assume that Britain
will join, seeing that most of its
trade is with Europe. But we also
imagine that as well as the single
currency most of the members of the
EU will retain a second currency for
internal use - just as for the seventy
years of existence of the Soviet Union
the rouble was a currency only for
internal transactions. It could not be
exported and so, for instance, visitors
to the USSR in the '50s and '60s
would exchange their currency for
roubles at a rate of two and a half
roubles to the pound sterling, and
when they left they had to exchange
the roubles they hadn't spent for
foreign currency at the same rate.
Of course there was a black market
for foreign currency - one was
accosted in the street - that always
happens, but what was interesting
was that the prices of the basic
commodities never fluctuated and that
the Soviet Union could not import in
money terms more than it exported.
And of course gold and other valuable
minerals were among the exports, so
unlike Britain, which never followed
Mrs Thatcher's stricture that "we
should all live within our means", the
Soviet Union did. And as we said, we
can well imagine that some of the
European countries, when the single
currency is ratified, may well adopt a
similar system.

But plus =E7a change ... so long as
money is power and used for
exploiting human labour, basically
adopting the single currency won't
make a ha'porth, or an ecusworth, of
difference. A few money-changers will
go out of business and continental
holiday-makers may not be ripped off
by banks and bureaux de change, but
does that justify holding a
referendum? We think not.

THE BENEFITS OF PROSPERITY

It was good to hear from our Chancellor in
his Budget speech that the British economy
is in such good shape. As you will know, he
informed us that his prudent managing of the
country's finances had delivered falling
unemployment, low inflation, interest rates
and taxes, and high profitability enabling the
government to cut public spending by =A32
billion next year. Things are going so well that
it will even be possible to find =A3470 million
over the next three years to spend on the fight
against benefit fraud.
The state of the economy is obviously good
news for somebody, perhaps for the majority
of people, but what is the effect of the
economic growth on those who, not lucky
enough to have a job, are not reaping the
benefits of this prosperity? A hint of the
answer to this question can be discerned in the
changes to housing benefit made by the
budget which will come into effect in October
of next year. Here I'll quote The Guardian:

"The cuts [to housing benefit, which will affect
250,000 single tenants and save more than =A3100
million a year] will mean that people under 60 who
live alone in private rented accommodation will be
eligible only for benefit equivalent to the average
rent of a room in a shared house.
In a second move, affecting another 125,000
people and designed to save a further =A325 million
a year, all private tenants will be limited to housing
benefit equivalent to the average local rent for a
'suitable' size home."

These two changes effectively mean that if
you are unemployed and dependent on the
'charity' of the tax-funded welfare system,
you no longer have the choice to live where
you want. Or, at least, you can choose, but
only to the extent of what room in a suitably
cheap house you want to live in. Alternatively,
ac60rding to Peter Lilley, you can stay where
you are by paying from your own income "for
more expensive accommodation". The minor
technicality of 'what income?' seems not to
exercise the Secretary of State's imagination
nor does the approachability or compassion of
most landlords when he also suggests that
tenants could "negotiate their rent downwards".
Amazingly he also links the movement of
individuals from single occupant flats into
@hared houses to the problem, perceived by
the government, that of the 4.4 million
projected new houses which will have to be
built by 2016, 80% will be occupied by single
people living alone. Lilley doesn't say that it
would help diminish this problem if claimants
and those on low incomes were impelled by
legislation to live in shared accommodation,
but by saying "it cannot be right to allow the
benefit system to play any part in furthering"
the increase in single occupant houses, he's
implying the same thing.
Decent housing is a human right, but more
than this, the choice of home, the possibility
of deciding its decoration and what to put in it
are basic acts of self-definition. One of the
aims of anarchism is to increase
immeasurably the amount of control we have
over our own lives and the decisions
concerning them. The simplest, and perhaps
most mundane, but surely the most essential
example of this control is the chance to shape
our own immediate environment. Any really
substantive expansion of freedom would
mean the possibility of being able to shape the
environment beyond our homes but, as things
are, even the decision of whether to live alone
or with others is connected to the amount of
money we possess. Choice in this area, it
seems, is a privilege which is forfeited if you
have no job. To be able to claim money from
the state you must accept its restrictions and
directives or else face punitive sanctions.
Choices and decisions taken for granted by
those in work must be given up once you've
signed on. You are left with no doubt that you
are able to eat and live beneath a roof only
because of the munificence of the state. All the
while one's dignity and self-respect is being
gnawed away.
These changes in housing benefits, howeverj
are only tinkerings which join pieces of
legislation such as the Job Seekers Act, the
Criminal Justice Act, and certain provisions of
the Housing Act 1996, in a process of creeping
social control. The welfare system plays its
part in the moulding and adapting of
individuals to the imperatives of the market
economy, that cosy euphemism for
capitalism. In their rhetoric politicians warn of
the dangers to society as a whole of the social
dislocations resulting from widespread
unemployment. Unfortunately, due to the
supposed political impossibility of criticising
the capitalist system itself, the solutions
offered to reduce the enormous welfare bill
are limited to those which serve the purposes
of the 'market'. The solutions don't, for
instance, stretch to easing the way for people
to build their own homes, or to make small
changes in the planning regulations so that
people could live and work on the land, thus
lowering or even eliminating the cost to the
state and taxpayer. Indeed, the most invidious
thing about the state is that it actively seems
to prevent the use of initiative and, dare I say
it, entrepreneurship, if such initiatives follow
a direction which it disapproves of because
they don't 'add value to the economy'. On the
one hand the state vilifies and criticises people
who are some of the most vulnerable and least
privileges in society for not trying hard
enough to find work, while on the other hand
withholding from them the opportunity to help
themselves unless they are making a
contribution to UK plc.
The unofficial economy, alternative
lifestyles and the different human-centred
values they embody may be the only
sustainable way forward when the prosperity
of Britain, and the other countries of the west
is disrupted by those who have been excluded
from it and by the environmental damage
which can only be slowed, not halted, by green
consumensm.
Duncan Hunt

NEWS FROM ANGEL ALLEY

This is the last issue of Freedom for 1996. It is
necessary to say this for two reasons: first,
because in the last few weeks we have gained a
number of new subscribers whom we would like
to welcome as regular readers and let them know
they can expect our next issue on or before I Ith
January 1997 (and incidentally to remind our
regular contributors to have their copy in not later
than Friday 3rd January 1997), and secondly, for
our larger number of regular readers whose
subscriptions fall due with this issue, your prompt
attention to our renewal notice will be apprecia@ed
by the voluntary workers who will come in to
Angel Alley over the holiday period to deal with
the many expected renewals and donations.

Talking of which, we felt that a few words about
the Freedom Fortnightly Fighting Fund and
the Freedom Press Overheads Fund (contributions
to which are acknowledged on page 8) would not
come amiss, both for the many new Freedom
readers who would like to know more about these
funds, and for older comrades and friends who may
have forgotten how important these funds are.
They enable the day-to-day activities to continue.
The Freedom Fortnightly Fighting Fund is to meet
the deficit incurred when printing and postage
costs exceed income from subscriptions and sales.
The Freedom Press Overheads Fund is for rates,
insurance, heating, telephone, and all the postal and
other overheads incurred in running an office
which deals with all the mail orders as well as
subscriptions to Freedom and The Raven. None of
these overheads is charged to either Freedom or
the bookshop.

We have brought out only three issues of our
96-page journal The Raven, instead of the
intended four. The last issue to go out (No. 33 on
'The Arts') was dated, logically or otherwise,
'Spring 1996', although it appeared but recently.
This was not for financial reasons but because of
the slowness of promised contributions and our
determination not to let editorial standards slide.
We plan to catch up next year; subscriptions are
for four issues, and that is what you will get. Joint
subscribers, we appeal to you to renew now.
publishing- once again we have had an active
year, bringing out five new titles: The Blue Cow
by John Olday, described as "intended for the
young but by the brilliance of the drawings and the
surrealism of the text even more fascinating to
adults than to children"; Colin Ward's Talking to
Architects; our first work of fiction, Steve Cullen's
utopian fable The Last Capitalist; A Weekend
Photographer's Notebook, the collection of unusual
photographs by Vernon Richards; and finally Max
Nettlau's A Short History of Anarchism, written in the
1930s but translated into English for the first time.
We intend to start the new year with a large
collection of writings by anthropologist Harold
Barclay to be titled Culture and Anarchism, and a
challenging book on the subject of workers'
control of industry and the role of the Labour
Party, which will be available in time for the next
general election, which we are assured will take
place in the spring.

The bookshop in Angel Alley, staffed by
voluntary workers, has not only kept open six
days a week but has been able to offer a range of
remaindered titles at bargain prices, for example
Solidarity Forever: an oral history of the Wobblies was
reduced from =A39.95 to =A32.99 (plus =A31 postage) and
Brian Winston's Misunderstanding Media reduced
from =A320 to =A32.95. The shop will end the year with
our annual social on Saturday 21st December,
though we expect to stay open until 5pm on
Christmas Eve, after which we will be closed until
Monday 6th January.

Freedom will be published every two weeks in
1997, with the exception of Easter (22nd March
to 1 2th April) and August Bank Holiday ( I 6th
August to 6th September) when there will be
three-week breaks, and the last issue of 1997 will
be dated 1 3th December, making 24 issues in all.
We intend the paper to cover all the issues which
Affect people's daily lives - technology, the environ-
ment, industry, health, education, transport and so
on, as well as covering the major international and
national news from an anarchist viewpoint.

Some time next year, probably earlier rather
than later, there will be a general election in
Britain, when for the first time in eighteen years (as
long as the lifetime of some first-time voters) there
is the real possibility of the Labour Party under
Tony Blair taking power from the Conservatives.
Anarchists should be preparing now to launch their
campaign for the election year. Whatever we do
will not alter the course of the election, but we
shall take the opportunity of putting forward the
anarchist case. We are looking for new readers
who are not anarchists but who are on the 'left'
and despairing of the political parties. If they are to
make sense of anarchism we must show them that
the anarchist approach to day-to-day problems
makes sense, and how we differ from the capitalist
press, as well as from the various social democratic
periodicals.

In common with other small circulation papers,
Freedom is not of interest to the commercial
newsagents. We have kept our cover price and
subscription rates the same for several years, but
although our circulation is rising and although we
have no paid staff or contributors, we are still not
breaking even. We rely on subscribers and those
comrades and supporters who take bundles of the
paper to sell at meetings or demonstrations. Being
optimists, we are convinced that somewhere in
Britain there are at least, say, 500 more people
who would like to read Freedom if they only knew
about it. Regular subscribers, ask yourselves if you
could take at least one extra copy which can be
used to introduce new readers. Bundle
subscription rates are given on the back page.

The season's greetings to all our readers an
best wishes for a happy new year.

BOOKSHOP NEWS

A nicely produced =A31 for 50 pages pamphlet
from the ACF stable is John Crump's The
Anarchist Movement in Japan, which is a
condensed version of his much longer book
on the subject. The three sections into which
it is divided reflect the three distinct phases
of the Japanese movement: 1906-1911,
1912-1936 and 1945 to the present. He faces
up to the contradictions manifested at various
times which so puzzle anarchists in the west,
such as working within official trade union
structure, forming political parties and
accepting funding from the Comintern, and
covers the anarchist-communist/anarcho-
syndicalist divisions, half-hearted attempts at
terrorism and the vicious repressIons inflicted
on individuals by the state. One such, K=F4toku
Sh=FBsui, was one of the early leading lights of
the anarcho-communists, and is featured in
Freedom Press's pack of picture-and-biography
cards in three colours called Anarchists* (=A35
for the 36-card set), of which he is number
13. Unlucky for some, and definitely for him
- he was hanged for a plot against the
Emperor in which he was not even involved.
If you would like more information on
anarchism in South East Asia, we have limited
stocks of the Japanese magazine Libero
International* (in English) from 1975-1980,
numbers 3 to 6, at =A33 for the set while stocks
last. Topics include =D4sugi Sakae and Bakunin,
anarchism and China, the Korean anarchist
movement, Bakunin and Japan, Pa Chin,
reviving village autonomy, and a lot more.

Senseless Acts of Beauty: cultures of resistance
since the sixties is an attractive. Iarge-format
book by George McKay, a former punk and
anarchist who now teaches in Lancashire. It is
an accessible, vivid insider's account of all the
main youth cultures and protest movements
in Britain up to the present and, just as
important, it shows the links, continuity and
influences that run through the various
strands, contrary to popular opinion which
says that each 'new' manifestation is a
complete break with previous movements.
What is of most value is the book's sense of
hope, notwithstanding the gloomy reality on
which it opens: "Welcome to the social and
environmental devastation that is Britain in
1996 ... to interchangeable political parties
and their chattering media jesters pulling
together to make Johnny Rotten's dream
come true: no future. But despite their best
efforts, fear, cynicism and the National
Lottery aren't the whole story. Protest hasn't
disappeared during the last twenty years, nor
have solidarity and imagination. They have
simply taken new forms, moved out and
moved on. More and more young people
especially are making a virtue of necessity and
living outside Britain's rotting institutional
fabric. Travellers, tribes, ravers or squatters,
direct action protesters of every kind,
DlY-ers." Despite the 'single-issue politics'
criticism they sometimes face and the fact that
many would reject the term 'anarchist', the
tactics, structure and methods of organising
they use have undeniably been heavily
influenced by contact with anarchist ideas
and how many hearts are not gladdened at
each new motorway occupation, each new
squat opened and each new act of resistance
to the CJA and Public Order Act? Running
roughly chronologically McKay details the
hippy free festivals and fairs; the New Age
travellers; the anarcho-pacifist-feminist band
Crass and the punk movement; raves and
drug culture; the radical ecology groups and
anti-roads movements; the massive
nationwide opposition to the CJA, brought in
as a reaction to all the above nuisances and
many others; but he doesn't shrink from
criticism, and makes many sharp observations
about them in this "first attempt to write their
history, to explore and celebrate their
endlessly creative senselessness". Published
by Verso, your 210 pages also gets you plenty
of notes, an index and a chronology, for =A310.
Noam Chomsky would probably not want
to be seen dead on some of the above actions,
but then his forte lies elsewhere. Fortunately
in Class Warfare one of the two new titles
from Pluto Press, he says his health is fine but
admits to thinking about retiring. However,
he also wishes he could produce more
writings- in addition to his already prolific
output. This work is a collection of lengthy
interviews over the last couple of years (one
of a series - Chomsky is at his most lively in
interviews) with his long-standing
collaborator David Barsamian, which he
hopes will stimulate the reader into action.
He explores the growing economic and social
crisis, the fiscal austerity rationale that is being
used to cloak "an unrelenting class war against
working people" by the multi-national
corporations and their political side-kicks,
and shows how poverty and its associated ills,
although always present under capitalism, is
now worsening even during times of
economic recovery. There are ton of facts
and figures here and some typically snappy
chapter headings, like 'Take From the Needy
and Give to the Greedy' and 'Israel:
Rewarding the Cop on the Beat', and also
some bizarre revelations: just to take one
example, a former Provost of MIT, where
Chomsky teaches, disagreed with him on
practically everything, but they got on very
well. Chomsky even backed him as a
candidate for President of MIT when most
other people didn't. His name was John
Deutch, now director of the CIA. =A310.99 for
185 addictive pages, with index.
If, like me, you first came across Chomsky
in the context of linguistics, then philosophical
essays on language and the problems of its
connection with thought and nature will be
familiar to you, and the first two chapters of
his latest work, Powers and Prospects:
reflections on human nature and the social order,
will certainly give you some cerebral toffee to
chew on. But if that's not your particular bag,
there is plenty of other good material in its
244 pages. In January last year Chomsky
arrived in Australia for a whistle-stop lecture
tour across the continent in a typically
punishing schedule. As it happened, PopeJohn
Paul and the billionaire software king Bill
Gates both arrived at the same time. Guess
who didn't make the front pages. But
Chomsky's talks, which form the basis of this
book, will probably still be read - and certainly
deserve to be - long after those two gurus
have been forgotten. There are two meaty
chapters on East Timor and its fate at the
hands of the great powers and under the New
World Order; one on the 1@1iddle East
Settlement; another called 'Goals and Visions',
and more. As usual his work is suffused with
a wealth of detail, supplemented with chapter
notes and an index. At =A313.99 a bit pricier
than the previous title, but then that's
Mammon for you.

Anyone with experience of communal living
knows that it's not as easy as it sounds, the
nuclear family having been the norm for
decades or longer. So D&D Publications'
Diggers and Dreamers 1996-97: the guide to
cooperative living (=A39.50) is not just a list of
communes but has a detailed 'how to do it'
section on what you need to think about and
do before taking the first step. Besides the
directory with over 100 pages of descriptions
of all types of communities, both here and
abroad, and their addresses, 100 other pages
of articles cover the ups and downs, joy and
tears, and implications of communal life, and
include using LETS, permaculture, a piece on
self-build pioneer Walter Segal by Colin Ward,
sexual relationships and so on. Attractively
designed with maps and photographs.
=A36 will get you Volume 4.2 of the biannual
Anarchist Studies, whose main articles are on
William Godwin, and Anarchy on the
Internet. Of the two, the latter is the more
interesting, but marred by some silly remarks
and uninformed assumptions about Freedom,
and much repetitive puff about Spunk Press. I
wonder why. Also, a reply to Bookchin's
Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism* by
Susan Brown, Janet Biehl's reply to the reply,
and lots of book reviews.
"You're writing a history of Russian
anarchism? What are you trying to prove?
There's only one important thing: the
Commie sons-of-bitches wanted power! And
I'll tell you something else: there were a lot of
funny bastards among the anarchists too!" -
Kropotkin's daughter Sasha speaking to Paul
Avrich a year before her death in 1966, in one
of his 53 collected interviews that form the
admirable Anarchist Voices: an oral history of
anarchicm in America the ahri@l@ecl p@r@er@a@lc
(=A3 13.50) alternative to the outrageously-
priced hardback. Covers the obscure, the
famous and, most intriguingly, and obscure on
the famous. An unmissable 323 pages, with
exhaustive index, by America's pre-eminent
anarchist historian.
'Four Eyes'
Titles distributed by Freedom Press Distributors
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