Freedom bookshop torched

Freedom bookshop torched

London based anarchist bookshop Freedom was damaged in an arson attack in the early hours of Friday morning. Nobody was hurt in the fire which partially gutted the ground floor and damaged the building's electrics.

Freedom Press is Britain's longest running anarchist publisher and traces its history back to the original Freedom paper started by Charlotte Wilson and Peter Kropotkin in 1886.

Firefighters were called to the shop at around 5:00am and had the fire extinguished shortly after 7:00am. Around 15% of the ground floor was damaged by the blaze according to London Fire Brigade.

An unknown assailant forced a broken shutter open and smashed a window before pouring flammable liquid into the bookshop and setting it alight. The filth attended the scene and are treating the fire as suspicious.

As well as selling books, Freedom Press publish a number themselves, produce a monthly paper and provide office space for several radical and anarchist groups such as the Solidarity Federation, Anarchist Federation, Advisory Service for Squatters, Corporate Watch and London Coalition Against Poverty.

Nobody has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack although many believe that the far-right may be responsible as the building was last seriously attacked in 1993 by now defunct neo-nazi terror group Combat 18.

Due to financial problems the press has suffered recently, the insurance on the building had not been renewed and group are requesting financial support so they can continue their work.

Freedom said: “We are setting up a donation page. In the meanwhile, anyone who wants to donate can do so by ordering a book/s through the website, and emailing us at to let us know that your purchase was a donation. “

Alternatively, cheques or postal orders made payable to Freedom Press can be sent to Freedom Press, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX.

Photo - Max Reeves
Video - Brian Whelan

Posted By

Feb 1 2013 13:55


Attached files


Feb 10 2013 09:50

Why wasn't the insurance renewed? Why weren't the locks fixed on the shutter windows? Why were precious archives left so exposed?

Rob Ray
Feb 10 2013 12:26

1. Because we'd run out of money
2. Because we'd run out of money
3. Because we wanted to make them accessible

Bear in mind there was no indication beforehand that someone was thinking of doing this and we haven't had an attack in 20 years other than a vague EDL threat to storm the shop in the day (which shutters wouldn't help with). Given there's so much else needs doing/paying for and definitely will get us shut down if we don't pay (rates, for example) it was nowhere near the top of the list.

Edit: No need for downvoting folks, they're legitimate questions.

Feb 10 2013 15:39

Thanks for the response.

I ask those questions because I do see Freedom as a common resource both nationally and internationally. This may not be the opinion of some but what goes on at Freedom, its structure, its finances, how it organises - considering it relies on its legacy to continue ( recently seen by the amazing solidarity it received post the attack ) - should interest all those that associate themselves with anarchism.

Recently there has been some issues surrounding the future of Freedom, its lack of money and how money is accounted for? Is this true? This is also connected with the Hoffman case which no doubt has impacted Freedom's ability to pay for things like insurance and new shutter locks.

So yes, I think they are legitimate and valid questions, especially when Freedom appeals to the rest of the "movement" for support when its in crisis. Freedom has been donated a lot of money in the past, its apparently ran out - how this is the case, and how suggestions to close the paper down ( itself self financing as far as I know ) should concern every anarchist, no? I am not sure if thats still on the card but Freedom's future - with or without the attack - is in danger.

So what I am asking is whether Freedom and the collective that runs it should be accountable to a wider movement? If so how can this be done without negative assumptions being projected on to those that have put so much effort into it.

Feb 11 2013 09:16
raw wrote:
If so how can this be done without negative assumptions being projected on to those that have put so much effort into it.

What is it that you are trying to express here?

Rob Ray
Feb 11 2013 10:07

Well financially I've kind of summarised some of it at the time of the Hoffman thing here, but no we don't have a proper breakdown of all the figures over the last few years other than a brief period a few years back when a volunteer accountant was doing them - that was actually something that the bookshop co-ordinators* were both working on sorting out just before the fire.

We do have rough figures which Andy has been doing the last couple of years, I don't think people would be happy with me putting it online but they can be requested from the bookshop or picked up at the monthly meetings (which are open access to the movement, though you can only vote if you're a collective member).

In general terms though, I can say that we've lost significant sums of money for all eight years I've been are the press and the last major donation we got, a legacy, was in 2007 which is what saw us through to the start of this year, basically. What it got spent on varies, but as I understand it (I wasn't around in the 2008-2010 period for personal reasons so can't say first hand) major outlays were:

- Wages (approx £12k a year for bookshop**, currently split between two part timers, £5k for admin and layout plus a year or so of paying an editor/shop volunteer travel)
- Business rates (about £8-9k a year and due to rise)
- Publishing (again, no exact figures but a couple of major miscalculations have led to significant losses on Mutual Aid and Beating The Fascists - we decided last year to have a hiatus on publishing with a view to eventually switching to short-run digital print as a result)
- Insurance (not sure exactly, but expensive)
- Utilities, general repairs (including boiler replacement, rewiring, £2k a year plus unknown costs for one-off stuff)
- Moving the shop downstairs (not sure, wasn't around)
- The paper (which lost quite a lot of money until the price was put up and the frequency dropped)

In terms of running off "movement" donations, since the last legacy not so much in the last few years, actually. We haven't run a donations column in the paper since I became an editor and didn't do a major callout during Hoffman either other than publicising what had happened and getting a fair number of new subscriptions as a result (in fact financially we were mostly helped through that period via two one-off donations from people we hadn't asked for anything and who were just infuriated by Hoffman).

On the paper, that's been largely sorted out for now and there are currently no plans to close it down.

And finally, on movement accountability, well, no not really. It's an independent group, same as SF or AF and it's like that for a reason, becoming "accountable to the wider movement" ime usually just means accountable to the loudest and most powerful voices within it and opens us to being pulled this way and that rather than focusing on what we're supposed to be doing.

To take just one recent example no doubt you've heard about the Mayo incident at last year's bookfair. One side has been demanding that we publish their take, the other has been demanding we don't. Our editor, supported by the rest of the collective, ended up deciding that Freedom's core remit is as a propaganda publication, not a forum for personal arguments - and he had the ability to do that because of our independence. It means we can continue being there for the movement as a whole rather than getting dragged into other people's squabbles the whole time.

Despite this, tbh it's piss-easy for any anarchist to involve themselves directly in Freedom and have the same rights as every other member simply by joining (ie. coming to two meetings in a row and volunteering for a job). It's not like it's an exclusive members' club or anything. Personally I'd be overjoyed if more people did so and feel free to PM me for details (again, not sure collective members would be happy with me giving exact details of when we're all in the shop in public).

*I'd guess you probably know both of them but I'm only confident in mentioning Andy by name as I've never asked the other person about sharing details

** This has in the past been criticised, however before paying someone the bookshop income was £13k and falling, and rose to £26k afterwards. It's since fallen back down to a level between the two, but the wage has in general been made up by increased income until last year, when radical bookshop income suffered fairly serious falls across the board.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 14 2013 15:44

looks like the comp is now available for download and it's a whopper, too:

Apr 30 2013 01:15


When Steve was asked why he donated the poem he said, poetically, "It was a good excuse to stick it to THE MAN".

what a leg end!

Mar 10 2014 10:21

Since Freedom: A Journal of Anarchist Socialism first appeared in 1886 it has been in the form of a newspaper to be sold. Now the Freedom Collective has decided that we shall move content online accompanied by a freesheet after publication of the upcoming second issue of 2014.

We have come to realise that a sold hardcopy newspaper is no longer a viable means of promoting the anarchist message. Despite a huge publicity boost to Freedom following the firebomb attack last year (shop sales rose 50%) there has not been a corresponding increase in distribution of the paper. Only 29 shops, social centres and individuals now sell it and the number of paying subscribers has fallen to 225.As a result annual losses now amount to £3,500, an unsustainable level for our shoestring budget.

Readers will have noticed that the paper has struggled to come out on time for some while. An underlying problem has been a lack of capacity to sustain it. We had hoped that Freedom would be adopted as THE paper of the anarchist movement. Despite a great deal of goodwill from anarchist groups and individuals over the years, sadly this has not been the case.

Although Freedom Press has changed from a political group with a particular point of view to a resource for anarchism as a whole, we have not managed to shake the legacy of the past and get different groups to back it as a collective project. We hope an online version and freesheet will make that possible...

May 15 2014 00:03

Combat 18 is still alive and well, they have a Polish section/branch which goes to prove how dangerous they are.

"Nobody has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack although many believe that the far-right may be responsible as the building was last seriously attacked in 1993 by now defunct neo-nazi terror group Combat 18".